Peter Weir Critical Essays

Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Peter Weir 1944–

Australian director, screenwriter, and actor.

Weir's films convey his perception of the mystical in everyday events. A successful director emerging from Australia's recent New Wave, he juxtaposes the beautiful and the bizarre, creating a calm exterior that masks the unknown.

Weir made several short films before obtaining a directorial position at Film Australia. His first full-length film, Three To Go, won the Grand Prix of Australia and was nationally televised. In 1971, Weir won another Grand Prix for Homesdale. After making several documentaries, Weir directed his first feature, The Cars that Ate Paris. The film combines a variety of genres to provide social commentary on the modern automotive fetish. Though a dismal commercial failure, critics received it favorably.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is considered one of Australia's finest films. Its ethereal visual quality belies the ominous subject matter. Picnic at Hanging Rock suggests that we live placidly on the edge of hellish disturbing forces beyond our control. Since the supernatural conquers, the film seems to justify a fear of the unknown.

The Last Wave uses water imagery to depict unknown powers. Because of this film's link with aboriginal beliefs, it is a more mystic, brooding work than Picnic at Hanging Rock. Some critics, however, feel that Weir concerned himself more with establishing a darkly ominous tone than with narrative development. The Plumber, too, has a primitive influence similar to The Last Wave, but presents evil in the form of a young "bogeyman." Its form of black comedy is strongly reminiscent of the plays of Harold Pinter.

Weir says he does not set out to depict the supernatural deliberately. However, the pervasive image of unseen powers in his films echoes Edgar Allan Poe's words stated at the beginning of Picnic at Hanging Rock: "What we are and what we seem are but a dream, a dream within a dream."