The Australian myth


"The Man from Snowy River" got it wrong. Not actually the man; not even the poem or the writer of the poem. No, the film got it wrong.

The crucial ingredient in an Australian film is its ability to sell it overseas. To sell it overseas is to sell it in America. The poem had a good story line and there was certainly some great action in it, so it had all the elements of a good film. There was just one thing missing from the poem. The man from Snow River didn't win the heart of a beautiful woman. The film fixed up the problem, but stuffed up the story. Mind you, now at least the film fitted the Hollywood formula.

One film that did get it right was Gallipoli. The romantic element was way off in the background, and that's where they left it. In Gallipoli they didn't get it wrong.

For the poem, "The Man from Snowy River", there is one simple question. What did the man win, what did he gain from his ride? In the film he won the hand of a beautiful woman. Not a bad prize, but it's not what he won in the poem. In the poem he won the praise of his mates - around the campfires they told the story of his ride.

In the final scene of the film Gallipoli, the Australian officer who had ordered the men into a suicide charge, made the only choice available to him. He didn't have to go with them, but he wrote a final note to his wife, took off his ring and drove it into the side of the trench with his bayonet. His mates came before his wife; such is the power of the Australian myth.

She rarely spoke of the War. Her man had gone off when they had been married for less than a year. All his mates had signed up and so he did the same - he never came back. She spoke quietly, and even after all these years there were tears in her eyes. "I will never forgive him, you know. I will never forgive him for leaving me alone."

For some reason, the kinship of the Australian bushman lives on in every native born Australian. We, as with most people in Western society, don't hear much of what Jesus says, but when he says something like, "Surely I will be with you always, even to the very end of the age", we recognize something of the mate who will stand with us through thick and thin.


[Pumpkin Cottage]