Introduction: Gallipoli
Australia, 1981; in English; in Color; Run time: 110 min.
Rated - USA: PG - See also IMDb's "Parents Guide for Gallipoli (1981)."
Director: Peter Weir
b. 1944, Sydney, Australia 
Director, Screenwriter, Producer, Actor
URL of this web page:

  What are your legs?
  Springs, steel springs.
  What are they gonna do?
  They're going to hurl me
     down the track.
  How fast can you run?
  As fast as a leopard.
  How fast are you gonna run?
  As fast as a leopard.
  Then let's see you do it!
  (Gallipoli, qtd. in "Memorable Scenes")

MLA Style Works Cited bibliographical entry - Option 1 (minimum required information):

Gallipoli. Dir. Peter Weir. Australian Film Commission - R & R Films, 1981. Paramount Pictures, 2005. DVD.

MLA Style Works Cited bibliographical entry - Option 2 (adding helpful bibliographical information):

Gallipoli. Dir. Peter Weir. Wr. Peter Weir and David Williamson. Prod. Patricia Lovell and Robert Stigwood. Perf. Mark Lee, Mel Gibson, Bill Kerr, Bill Hunter. Australian Film Commission - R & R Films, 1981. Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, Special Collector's ed., 2005. DVD.

Filmography Information
See also "Gallipoli (1981)":

GallipoliFilm first released: 1981.
Director: Peter Weir
Producers: Patricia Lovell and Robert Stigwood
Peter Weir; Screenplay: David Williamson
Cinematographer/Director of Photography: Russell Boyd
Film Editor: William M. Anderson
Production Companies: Australian Film Commission [now Australian Film Distribution Co., which holds the film's 1981 copyright], R & R Films [Associated R&R Films Pty. Ltd.], 1981.
DVD Version:
Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, Special Collector's Edition, 2006.

Main Characters & Performers:
Archy Hamilton [film's
idealistic protagonist & national class sprint runner, who manages (with the help of best "mate" Frank Dunne) to enlist under-age in the ANZAC Light Horse brigade] played by Mark Lee
Frank Dunne
[film's 2nd protagonist; national class sprint runner like best "mate" Archy Hamilton, but slightly older, urban-bred, more worldly wise & cynical about the war & resistant to recruitment] played by Mel Gibson
Uncle Jack 
[Archy Hamilton's uncle & sprint trainer] played by Bill Kerr
[one of Frank's mates who runs from railroad work & enlists in the ANZAC infantry] played by Robert Grubb
[another of Frank's runaway mates, who joins the ANZAC infantry] played by Tim McKenzie
[another of Frank's mates who runs from railroad work & joins the ANZAC infantry] played by David Argue
Major Barton
[of the Light Horse brigade] played by Bill Hunter

For more complete filmographical information, see these IMDb - Internet Movie Database sources:
"Gallipoli (1981)" Combined Details:
"Full Cast and Crew for Gallipoli (1981)":

Brief Film Synopsis

"Within the context of WWI [World War I], the film centres around the mateship between two young national-class sprinters from Western Australia, Archy Hamilton (Mark Lee) and Frank Dunne (Mel Gibson), who first meet as rivals in athletic competitio[n], but soon decide to enlist together, and eventually become part of the same Light Horse unit" (Sutherland; emphasis added) sent to reinforce ANZAC* forces already engaged in the British-led 1915 invasion of Turkey at Gallipoli. "The film consistently portrays Australia, in part through its emblematic protagonists [i.e. Archy Hamilton and Frank Dunne], as young, affable and charmingly naïve, in contrast to the callously self-serving British" (Sutherland).

*ANZAC [> A. & N.Z.A.C] = Australian and New Zealand Army Corps

For more detailed synopses, noting SPOILER alert, see also:
--"Synopsis for Gallipoli (1981)":
--Hart, David M. "Peter Weir, Gallipoli (1981) 1HR 50 (LD/WS)":

Australian Concepts of "Mate" & "Mateship"

Here are the Australian Government's Culture Portal web definitions:

     "Mateship" is a concept that can be traced back to early colonial times. The harsh environment in which convicts and new settlers found themselves meant that men and women closely relied on each other for all sorts of help. In Australia, a "mate" is more than just a friend. It's a term that implies a sense of shared experience, mutual respect and unconditional assistance.
     Mateship is a term traditionally used among men, and it is a term frequently used to describe the relationship between men during times of challenge. The popular notion of mateship came to the fore during the First World War. ("Mateship, Diggers and Wartime"; emphasis added)

Film Setting, Title, Historical Background, & Significance

SETTING: The film Gallipoli is set in the year 1915. The action opens in Western Australia, May 1915.  The second act moves to Cairo, Eqypt (where the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, comprised of Australian and New Zealander enlisted volunteers, was gathered and trained for the Gallipoli Campaign). The film's final act ends on 7 August 1915, at the Battle of the Nek, with the futile attack of reinforcement ANZAC* units against entrenched Turkish forces determined to defend the Gallipoli peninsula of Turkey.

*ANZAC [> A. & N.Z.A.C] = Australian and New Zealand Army Corps
"In 1917, the word ANZAC meant someone who fought at Gallipoli and later it came to mean any Australian or New Zealander who fought or served in the First World War. During the Second World War, ANZAC Day became a day on which the lives of all Australians lost in war time were remembered. The spirit of ANZAC recognises the qualities of courage, mateship and sacrifice which were demonstrated at the Gallipoli landing ("ANZAC Day"; emphasis added).

TITLE: So the film's title refers to the disastrous "1915 Gallipoli Campaign of World War I, during which approximately 8,000 Australian soldiers were killed, and over 20,000 wounded, in a hopeless battle against the Turks," and in making this film director Peter Weir "takes on one of the founding myths of Australian nationalism" (Sutherland; emphasis added).

ANZAC Day: April 25 has been commemorated annually by Australians since 1916.  April 25,1915 was the first landing of ANZAC troops on the Gallipoli peninsula, where they were stalemated by steep cliffs and fierce Turkish resistance. "The ANZACs and the Turks dug in - literally - digging kilometres of trenches, and pinned down each other's forces with sniper fire and shelling. Thousands of Australian and New Zealand men died in the hours and days that followed the landing at that beach. The surviving diggers, as the Australians called themselves, hung on waiting for reinforcements" ("ANZAC Day").  But ANZAC reinforcements and poorly-led futile offensives - such as the Battle of the Nek dramatized in the film Gallipoli - led to tragic waste of human life for both ANZAC invaders and Turkish defenders. Though April 25 is the day of commemoration, "the battles of Gallipoli last more than eight months" (known to the Turkish as "the Battle of Çannakkale" (Yasar) and ended in ANZAC evacuation on 20 Dec. 1915.  

In opinion-editorial piece published by the Turkish e-gazette Today's Zaman, Shirin Yasar considers "The Resonance of Gallipoli" as the 95th anniversary of Anzac Day nears:

     The significance of Gallipoli to Australians perplexes many from other nations. Gallipoli was a defeat; there were many other nationalities in the armies that fought at Gallipoli; the casualties of the British and French forces were far greater than those of the Australians. The number of lives lost [an estimated 81,500 men] by the Turkish army was more than any of the other nations. . . .
     . . . [Y]et there is hardly a child in Australia who has gone through the education system without becoming aware of Gallipoli. Despite the passage of time, the Gallipoli story continues to be passed down with as much zeal as the stories told to the earliest generation of Australian school children. Almost a century has passed since the war at Gallipoli, yet schoolchildren continue to listen to stories of brave Simpson and his donkey, the gallant attack at Lone Pine, the self-sacrificing charge at the Nek [the climactic event of Peter Weir's film] or various other incidents of Australian bravery. Each year the children are asked to observe a minute’s silence in memory of the men who lost their lives and the events they may never fully comprehend. Despite the valor of the ANZAC legend and the glory of the stories of gallantry, Australia was the invading country, and the battle ultimately amounted to a national loss that would only be recovered through a strategically swift retreat. So what is the significance of this event that has disallowed it to fade from the Australian psyche and perhaps more importantly, why is it that Gallipoli should continue to remain entrenched in the memories of all Australians? (Yasar; emphasis added)

To this intriguing question, Yasar provides thoughtfully balanced answer--beginning with Gallipoli's major significance representing "the birth of a nation"--and his article is well worth reading. As the Australian Government's Culture Portal web article "ANZAC Day" acknowledges, the realities of ANZAC participation in the Gallipoli Campaign grew into nationalistic legends, aided by an Australian inclination "to make heroes of noble failures." Remembrance of Gallipoli became a patriotic "story of courage and endurance amongst death and despair" ("ANZAC Day").  According to Dr. Frank Bongiorno, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of New England:

     The Gallipoli campaign was the beginning of true Australian nationhood. When Australia went to war in 1914, many white Australians believed that their Commonwealth had no history, that it was not yet a true nation, that its most glorious days still lay ahead of it. In this sense the Gallipoli campaign was a defining moment for Australia as a new nation, but also a key moment in the evolution of a particular image of Australian masculinity.
major features of an ANZAC legend were discernible very early in the campaign: Australians were bold and ferocious in battle but were unwilling to bow to military discipline. An ANZAC never flinched - if he died it was with a joke, or a wry smile on his face - yet nor would he salute a superior officer....In the ANZAC legend, the Australian Imperial Force was a democratic organisation, in which there were friendly relations between officers and men, and anyone could rise from the ranks to a commission.
(qtd. in "ANZAC Day")

The Australian Government's "ANZAC Day" web article also acknowledges "a contrasting image to that of the bronzed and noble ANZAC," summarizing "evidence of the ANZAC's bad behavior" documented in Professor Manning Clark's A History of Australia:

As recruits, before being shipped to war, some indulged in sex orgies with an 18-year-old girl at the Broadmeadows camp, others confronted police in violent scuffles on the streets of Melbourne. Their behaviour in Egypt was no better - they burned the belongings of local people, brawled, got drunk and rioted, and spent sufficient time in the local brothels for many of them to suffer from venereal disease.
     Although perhaps less than heroic, this behavior too - brawling, drinking, fighting - is part of the Australian construction of masculinity . . . . ("ANZAC Day")

Heroic and "less than heroic" reality and legend have melded in forging Australian identity. "At Gallipoli, men from all backgrounds and classes from the newly federated Australia created the essence of what it means to be Australian - courage under fire, grace under pressure, giving a hand to a mate" ("ANZAC Day"; emphasis added). 

But as Yasar points out, not only for Australians but also for Turks and New Zealanders, ". . . Gallipoli is something apart -- a significant event in the self-development of their individual nations." The "joint suffering" and "vast loss of life in seeming wastefulness" have also forged special bonds of "mutual respect" (Yasar).  What may seem surprising is that "'Australia and Turkey are perhaps the only two countries in the world that have a strong friendship born out of a war'" (Rusty Priest, qtd. in Yasar). 

Australian "New Wave" Cinema, Peter Weir & Gallipoli

"Film in Australia," featured in the Australian Government's Culture Portal (which unfortunately will be closed down in July 2010 due to economic constraints!), provides a valuable introduction and web directory.  The  Australian "New Wave" or "Renaissance" in filmmaking refers to the enormously creative period from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s ("Film in Australia").  And, as Romy Sutherland explains:

Peter Weir helped to define the rebirth of Australian cinema, while addressing some of the most pressing concerns of the nation in the 1970s and 1980s. His intriguing images of Australia, evocative and transcendent, made an impact in the international art house scene, eager for compelling visions of geo-political areas and cultures overlooked by mainstream cinema. After achieving international recognition as an emblematic Australian filmmaker, Weir made his transition to Hollywood while maintaining a sense of experimentation and artistic exploration.

In an interview with Sue Mathews, published in her 35mm Dreams: Conversations with Five Directors about the Australian Film Revival (Melbourne: Penguin, 1984), Peter Weir called Gallipoli (1981) his “'graduation film'” (Mathews 87, qtd. in Sutherland), by which Weir meant that Gallipoli was "the first film he directed where he felt fully in control of his artistic resources" (Sutherland). 

In another interview (originally published in 1981), Weir states: "I felt somehow I was really touching history" in Gallipoli, he and his film crew coming "as close to touching the source of the myth as we could" ("Peter Weir on Gallipoli").

"Gallipoli was internationally received as a statement on the irrationality of warfare . . . . In Australia it was also received as a statement about the damaging results of British arrogance on the Australian psyche" (Sutherland). While earlier film treatments "of Australian participation in the First World War . . . highlighted Australian pride in its special role assisting the objectives of the British Empire," Weir's Gallipoli "underscores the perils of the Australian connection to Britain, as the crux of the film rests on the premise that the British commanders knew that the operation was doomed to failure, and had little compunction in sacrificing the lives of Australia's youth" (Sutherland). One "message of the film" is that "motherland" Britain betrayed young Australia's "loyalty," though the reality was more complicated.  In part because Weir emphasizes "Australia's innocence and Britain's guilt in the conflict" and represses "any sense of Australian brutality and aggressive behavior," some critics maintain that Gallipoli is less complex and satisfying than Peter Weir's other films (Sutherland). 

Even so, Gallipoli's powerful story of lost innocence and wasted youthful potential, of war's futility and its deplorable costs, has resonated not only with Australian film viewers, but also with film audiences around the world. 

Some Characteristics of Peter Weir's Filmmaking

Romy Sutherland summarizes some recurring characteristics of Peter Weir's filmmaking as follows:

bulletpersistently "experiment[ing]" and engaging in "artistic exploration," which make both his early Australian films and his later Hollywood films difficult to categorize or pigeonhole "in terms of themes, genres or geographical locales"
bulletworking with a diversity of established film genres while bending/breaking/transcending their conventions and rules
bullet demonstrating a gift for working with actors, eliciting "natural performances from children and first-time actors," and "extending the range of established talent from Mel Gibson to Robin Williams and Jim Carrey"
bulletdramatizing tense encounters between "alternative realities" and "distinct cultures," exposing their conflicts, incompatibilities, disconnections
bulletdramatizing "struggle[s] for authenticity," which cause Weir's "most memorable characters - often confronted with danger, uncertainty, or betrayal - [to] become uneasy with the world as they have found it, or as it has found them.  They are often exposed to unsettling aspects of their own realities – sometimes traumatic ones – that lead to their loss of innocence or naiveté."
bulletevoking "hallucinatory, dreamlike states" and "numinous yearnings [that] challenge staid conventionalities"
bulletdrawing characters' "worlds of grief, confusion, or spiritual awakenings with adroit cinematic techniques that convey [their] subjective states," including "surreal" dream-like compositions, "distorted sounds, slow motion, and unnaturalistic light exposure."
bullet"Always shunning the comfortable solution, Weir's signature films move audiences beyond the commonplace while keeping them in an unsettled state to the end. . . . from the start he has preferred to take risks and to wait for a meaningful challenge, rather than follow a winning formula or style."  (Sutherland)

In Gallipoli, Weir re-creates a "dusty realism" and employs a "linear, direct style of storytelling, with fe[w] obviously stylised effects, while still conjuring richly atmospheric moments to portray the subjective confusion of traumatic events" (Sutherland). One such eerie film moment to notice is the beautiful but ominous scene of the young ANZACs, newly arrived at Gallipoli, swimming in the ocean.

Another surreal film sequence to notice:  Archy and Frank risking their lives on a foolhardy trek across the seering southwestern Australian desert to get to Perth so that Archy can fake his identification and be sent off to a death-dealing European war in Turkey.  In an interview, Peter Weir comments:

"Yes, it's strange to see these two young men off to a European war, walking through such a vast empty space. It had a fabulously abstract appeal to me, to hear them arguing about the war, and whether it's right or wrong to go, in the middle of all that blinding nothing. There are moments of that unreality throughout the film - the small boy blowing a trumpet on top of the giant enlistment wooden horse, the night landing, the sequence of the men swimming underwater at Gallipoli beach with the shells exploding all round them. . . . . To understand, you have to deal in paradox. 'They were the best of times and the worst of times' and the film is about both those aspects." ("Peter Weir on Gallipoli")

Works Cited & Recommended Sources

"ANZAC Day." Australia's Culture Portal: ozculture newsletter. 8 Jan. 2009. Australian Government Dept. of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. <>.

"Australian Female Filmmakers." Australia's Culture Portal: ozculture newsletter. 22 Aug. 2008. Australian Government Dept. of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. <>.

Carter, Helen. "Gillian Armstrong." Sep. 2002. Senses of Cinema Archive: Great Directors: A Critical Database. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. <>.

"Film in Australia." Australia's Culture Portal: ozculture newsletter. 22 Nov. 2007. Australian Government Dept. of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. <>.

Gallipoli. Dir. Peter Weir. Wr. Peter Weir and David Williamson. Prod. Patricia Lovell and Robert Stigwood. Perf. Mark Lee, Mel Gibson, Bill Kerr, Bill Hunter. Australian Film Commission - R & R Films, 1981. Paramount Pictures Home Entertainment, Special Collector's ed., 2005. DVD.

Gopnik, Adam. "The Big One: Historians Rethink the War to End All Wars." New Yorker 23 Aug. 2004: n.pag. New Yorker: Archive. New Yorker-Condé Nast Digital, 2010. Web. 17 Mar. 2010. <>.

Hart, David M. "Peter Weir, Gallipoli (1981) 1HR 50 (LD/WS)." [Study Guide.] David M. Hart's WebPage: Guide to War Films: Responses to War Part B - The 20th Century and Beyond. 9 May 2004. Web. 23 Apr. 2010. <>.

"Mateship, Diggers and Wartime." Australia's Culture Portal: ozculture newsletter. 12 Sep. 2007. Australian Government Dept. of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. <>.

Mathews, Sue. 35mm Dreams: Conversations with Five Directors about the Australian Film Revival.  Melbourne, Australia: Penguin, 1984. Print.

"Memorable Scenes." The Films of Peter Weir: Gallipoli. The Peter Weir Cave. Ed. David Nicholson. n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. <>.

Nicholson, David, ed. The Peter Weir Cave. n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. <>.

"Parents Guide for Gallipoli (1981)." The Internet Movie Database.,1990-2010. Web. 16 Apr. 2010. <>.

"Peter Weir on Gallipoli: Part of an Interview with Peter Weir from Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 9, no. 4, 1981." The Peter Weir Cave. Ed. David Nicholson. n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. <>.

Sutherland, Romy. "Commanding Waves: The Films of Peter Weir." Jan. 2004. Senses of Cinema Archive:  Great Directors: A Critical Database.  Web. 22 Apr. 2010. <>.

"Synopsis for Gallipoli (1981)."  IMDb: The Internet Movie Database.,1990-2010. Web. 16 Apr. 2010. <>.

Yasar, Shirin. "The Resonance of Gallipoli." [Op-Ed.] Today's Zaman 19 Apr. 2010, n.pag. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. <>.

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