Master of Arts (M.A.)
Degree Granting Department
Humanities and Cultural Studies
Amy Rust, Ph.D.
Margit Grieb, Ph.D.
Todd Jurgess, Ph.D.
Anthropocentrism, Classic Western, Film, Linear Perspective, Long Take, Revisionist Western
Scholarship discussing the Australian outback as a cinematic setting often conceives of this space as sharing a “frontier iconography” with the American west. A significant element of this conception is attributed to the natural features of these setting’s respective landscapes, which are said to share an arid climate, rugged geologic formations, and vast open spaces. In this project I instead strive to challenge the associations frequently conjured between these natural spaces by identifying an ecological stance within the Australian “new wave” outback film that is at odds with the presentation of the landscape in both classical Hollywood westerns and the subsequent “revisionist” westerns that sought to challenge the tropes of the genre. Through an investigation of the Australian films Wake in Fright (Ted Kotcheff, 1971) and Gallipoli (Peter Weir, 1980), I contend that these films implicitly reveal the natural world’s profound capacity to shape our lives as humans while the western represses this capacity. I argue that Wake in Fright’s mobilization of linear perspective emphasizes human vulnerability in relation to the outback landscape, and Gallipoli’s long takes visualize subversions of linear human progress that are attributable to the outback landscape. This is in contrast to the use of these techniques in the American western, where they instead help instill and affirm notions of an inevitable settler colonial progress toward dominion over the natural world. Scholarship that conflates the cinematic visualization or function of these two settings risks imprinting the western’s anthropocentric relationship to the natural world onto the outback landscape and consequently perpetuating the myths that have helped instigate the environmental crises we continue to face.
Scholar Commons Citation
Dyer, Richard T., "Threatened by the Outback: Landscape and Ecology in the Australian New Wave" (2021). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.