On the Beach 1959 PG
2.45PM Sat 17 Mar 2018
GOMA | Cinema A | Free
On the Beach will screen from an archival 35mm film print.
Nuclear fallout from a Third World War permeates the air of the Northern Hemisphere, draining it of life. The last groups of human survivors continue on in the southern pockets of the planet, knowing that the poisonous clouds are slowly migrating towards them. One of the remaining communities is in Melbourne, where Commander Dwight Towers (Gregory Peck) is stationed with his submarine and crew, amongst them Lieutenant Commander Peter Holmes (Anthony Perkins) and Australian scientist Julian Osborn (Fred Astaire). Upon discovering an inexplicable Morse code signal coming from California, Towers and his naval crew depart Australia to investigate its source. In doing so, he must leave behind his friend and potential love interest, Moira Davidson (Ava Gardner) on a trek into the unknown.
The A-list ensemble cast of On the Beach do a wonderful job of inhabiting their characters: Peck brings his classic honourable gravitas to his lead role, Gardner mixes melancholy inebriation with genuine affection, Perkins is believably nervy in his denial of impending death (despite a fluctuating Australian accent), and Astaire shines in a rare non-dancing role, filling each scene with a caddish joie de vivre. Director Stanley Kramer displays his aptitude at juggling multiple narrative strands across an ensemble, which he would put to similar effect in subsequent films such as Inherit the Wind 1960 and Judgment at Nuremberg 1961.
The film is adapted from British-Australian author Nevil Shrute's 1957 novel and uses its Australian backdrop wonderfully. Its contemporary street photography and weaving of refrains from Waltzing Matilda into its score lend a strong sense of place to the narrative action. Despite its grim premise, there is a thoughtful understanding of serene humanity that push through.
Ava Gardner's apocryphal declaration that Melbourne in the 1950s was "the perfect place to make a film about the end of the world" may have been invented to insult the host city, but taken as a comment on the film's sense of pervasive isolation and fatalism, it rings powerfully true.
35MM, BLACK AND WHITE, MONO, 134 MINUTES, USA, ENGLISH / DIRECTOR: STANLEY KRAMER / SCRIPT: JOHN PAXTON / BASED ON THE NOVEL BY NEVIL SHUTE / CINEMATOGRAPHER: GIUSEPPE ROTUNNO / EDITOR: FREDERIC KNUDTSON / PRODUCTION CO: STANLEY KRAMER PRODUCTIONS / PRINT SOURCE: NATIONAL FILM AND SOUND ARCHIVE OF AUSTRALIA / RIGHTS: PARK CIRCUS / SCREENING FORMAT: 35MM
PG | Adult themes