This film was 25 years old when it finally got a release in the USA with the title Black Rain – presumably to capitalise on Weir’s massive success with The Truman Show. This is a story that tries to weave aboriginal traditions with a psychological thriller sparked by an unexplained death. The world is at threat from a possible water-based apocalypse, so isn’t it great that there is a white man who suddenly has powers of aboriginal mythology.
As you can probably tell, the moment that The Last Wave started along the ‘white saviour’ line I did a massive eye roll. This is a film where some have drawn comparisons to Twin Peaks – I guess because of having a central character who is a bit of a fish-out-of-water that has some connection to mystical powers. However, watching this now, there are some things that ring really poorly.
For one thing, most of the explanations around the relevant aboriginal myths comes from white academics rather than anyone from their culture. The big thing, however, is having an American living in Australia being a kind of chosen one with pre-cognitive powers and an innate connection to the dreamtime. Again, it is worth remembering that this film is nearly 45 years old as we hold things to a different standard now. Also, this is still not a subject in a lot of films, so as it is good as a wider awareness raising exercise.
In the end though, after the disconnected beginning of the beginning where we see communities around Australia experiencing the freak rain storms, it took way too long for this film to focus on a central narrative for me to connect with. Sure there is some subtlety on display in this thriller and it is the first time I have seen a film that has ‘the dreamtime’ as a theme – but it just didn’t quite work for me.