Australian Screen

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The Forerunner (1957)

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clip 'Tunnel thro' the mountains' education content clip 1

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

After a hard day’s work, some of the workmen gather together in one of the huts to relax and sing together. With a combination of traditional and makeshift instruments, they sing the song ‘Tunnel thro’ the mountains’ about the work they are doing. At the end of the song, the camera moves outside into the snowy night. The melody from the song is reprised as serene night shots of the small township are shown ending with images of the yet to be completed dam wall they are working together to build.

Curator’s notes

Staged scenes and extended re-enactments or reconstructions were not unusual in documentaries of the time. The scene enacted here is certainly exaggerated for effect – with instruments made from a bottle, a washing board and a box of dynamite – but the essence at its heart conveys a truth about the lives, friendships and cultures of the workers who lived on the mountains during the Scheme’s construction. This is a romantic twist on social realism.

While it is not clear whether ‘Tunnel thro’ the mountains’ was written especially for the film, the lyrics, written by Ralph Peterson who also co-scripted the film, provide narration-in-song and reveal the workers’ experiences on the mountain. The music was co-written by Herbie Marks and Dick Carr.

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