It was ANZAC Day yesterday. Apart from being a good day off work, it was a chance to reflect on an interesting trend in Australia, namely that ANZAC Day now seems in the national ethos to be more Australia Day than Australia Day itself. This makes some sense – even C.E.W. Bean said that the consciousness of Australian nationhood was born at Gallipoli – it was certainly a defining event for the nation. However, it seems that Australia takes ANZAC Day more seriously now than it ever has in my lifetime – it’s no longer just a day for diggers to march and get drunk, and we’ve come a long way from Alan Seymour’s ‘The One Day of the Year‘. Regardless, I find it quite interesting how much Australia gets behind its ANZAC and military tradition, even while there is such little support for our involvement in the war in Iraq.
Amongst other things, Tegan and I went and saw ‘Kokoda‘ at the movies yesterday. A lot of people have asked us what we thought about it, so here are my thoughts:
It was quite a decent film – I guess we enjoyed it, if you can say that you ‘enjoy’ a film such as that. It was certainly one of the better war films I’ve seen for some time. As did many other critics, I thought it owed a lot to “The Thin Red Line” – it had that same psychological aspect. However, where the narrative and psychology of The Thin Red Line was more about questioning why war was necessary, “what is it all for?”, that question was nowhere to be seen in Kokoda. In Kokoda, it’s explicit and obvious what they are fighting for – it’s about the defence of Australia. In Kokoda, the psychological aspect is more about mateship – quite fitting for an Aussie film.
Kokoda is certainly not going to go down in history as one of the best films of all time, not even one of the best war films. It was good, but it’s not Gallipoli or The Thin Red Line or Apocalypse Now. It was quite well made, but there were several aspects that showed it was made by more amateur film makers. Their influences show through obviously as well: they ascribe to the Hitchcock approach to suspense, that you’ll keep your audience in suspense longer by showing them exactly what’s going to happen, while the characters are in the dark, and thus leave them wondering how it’s going to play out. There are also a few moments of real shock and other parts that are quite emotionally moving – Tegan was certainly a bit teary by the end. I will say, also, that I thought it was far better than ‘Saving Private Ryan‘ – while the first half hour of Saving Private Ryan was amazing and epic (particularly in the cinemas), that movie overall came across to me as Spielberg trying to make an intelligent, thought-provoking film and failing miserably; instead producing (by the end) schmaltzy, American crap. Kokoda stays well above that level, even if it is an unashamedly Australian patriotic film.
In summary: well worth seeing.