Charlie tells David a deep truth about the Aborigines and about all ancient peoples. For them, law is more important than a single person. Ancient cultures developed their sense of identity through their tribal stories and hidden rituals. The wisdom of the ancestors was embodied in the tribe's myths and legends. Each person lived according to these tribal and often cosmic laws. To step outside these laws could bring destruction not only to oneself but to the whole tribe. This makes every member of the tribe responsible for all the tribe.
This is tribal law. Charlie kills the man who broke the
taboo by stealing one of the tribal power objects. He kills him in the
Dreamtime to protect the ancient ways. Chris and Charlie try to get David
to back off from his defense for them, that they are tribal people still living
in Sydney. The whites don't know this and the Aborigines want to keep it a
secret. But David, in his zeal to save them, won't listen to them.
Aboriginal Art by Roslyn Ann Kem
This is an apt metaphor for what Western culture has done to the world, because our rational standpoint has often cut us off from life and led us to ignore the cosmic laws of Nature as well as the tribal laws of others. And so we bring disaster upon ourselves and our world. Charlie, as the tribe's shaman, is making sure that his world and its mysteries stay safe. The men are prepared to go to prison to protect the tribal laws.
But our western ways have already infiltrated the ancient ways. While David feels he is serving the cause of justice, he is breaking the barriers between two cultures. It is Chris who helps him -- Chris who comes to him in his dreams and shows him the stolen object. Chris and David become the vehicles, the twin souls, who bring about a new possibility for both cultures.
Here we have two men: one white, one black; one tribal aboriginal, one highly sophisticated Western civilized man. Both fine men. One of them has material wealth; one has spiritual wealth. I wanted my lawyer, with his material wealth, with his humanitarian principles, to, firstly, glimpse with his mind that there was another lost dream, or spiritual life, and then to touch it. (Peter Weir interview)
David does just that when he won't let go of the mystery. Chris tries to mediate between the old ways of the shaman and David's western ways. When he explains the Dreamtime, David asks him, "What are dreams?" and he answers, "Dreams are hearing, seeing, feeling ways of knowing. Dreams are the shadows of something real." Now we get to the essence of the story. How can modern man accept the reality of the Dreamtime -- or even his own dreams? David's response to this issue is central to the story. If he can accept the dream reality, something important will change.
When David seeks out the old shaman who has been terrorizing his family, trying to stop David from using the argument that this was a tribal killing, he has to face the BIG question of life. He finds Charlie, seated on the floor of an empty room in Sydney; when confronted, Charlie rocks back and forth, asking David over and over again, "Who are You? Who are You? Who are You? Are you a fish? Are you a snake? Are you a man? Who are You? Who are You? Who are You?" Charlie is at a loss to know who David is, and can only confront David with his own mystery. Can our inner dreamer really trust our ego to listen, to understand and to act in the whole's best interest? Or will we have more of the same?
Later, David's stepfather, a minister, reminds him that when he was a child, he used to be a dreamer. He told his parents that people came to take him to another world while he slept. But after he dreamed his mother's death, he locked that part of himself away, hidden so deep he forgot about it. Such a beautiful image for western man, who has cut himself off from the power of dreams and visions in his search to control life and nature! At the point in the movie where the waters are flooding him and he seemingly has lost everything, he asks his stepfather, "Why didn't you tell me there were mysteries?" His father's response is, "We lost our dreams."
As David reclaims his belief in the Dreamtime, Chris comes to him and shows him the way to the tribe's secret caves below Sydney. There David confronts the old shaman and in a battle of wills, overcomes him. If the old ways must die, then the new life carries forward the essence of wisdom that formed the core of that older wisdom. It seems neither the old shaman nor the old David will do. There needs to be balance, there needs to be an acceptance of both worlds. There needs to be a new possible human.
Exploring the sacred site, David sees the ancient stories drawn on the cave walls, stories of men who came to the Aborigines in the past from the East at the turning of the ages when there was a giant tidal wave which destroyed everything. They are somehow his people, for they look like him. He quickly gathers up a mask he finds there -- a mask that bears his own face - and leaves the caves. But when David tries to go back the way he came in, he finds the way barred. He loses faith and drops the mask. His old identity - no matter how wondrous - is left behind. He can only go forward, down through the sewers and then out in a new birth.
As he stumbles out of a sewage pipe onto the beach as the sun rises, he sees before him the mighty wave, building and building, ready to break. Peter Weir's vision of this wave is ambiguous. Is the wave a dreamtime reality? Or is a tsunami headed his way? Will our hero survive? Will we survive? Can we integrate the power of our own dream time? Only time will tell.
If you are interested in reading the first and third parts of this blog, please go to:
http://thebardsgrove.blogspot.com/2012/03/ And if you like it, please become a fan.
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