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Breathing Under Water (1991)

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clip The Land of Unlikeness

Original classification rating: PG. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

Beatrice (Anne Louise Lambert) wakes up to find herself, Maeve (Maeve Dermody) and Herman (Kristoffer Greaves) in the Land of Unlikeness. Over news and historical footage fusing the political, the historical and the spectacular, the Narrator (Gillian Jones) asks questions about the effects of technology and media on how we experience and understand ‘reality’.

Curator’s notes

The material in this clip, beautifully edited by Di Priest, seems more relevant than ever today. It’s a powerful segment calling into question our mediated experience of reality and of our own history. The links drawn by Breathing Under Water between the underwater, the unconscious, myth, history and the moving image are often made by theorists, but the jury is still out as to the exact nature of our roles as protagonists and spectators in the mediated world. One of the earliest and most skilful dramatic articulations of this post-moving image problem is famously embodied in Los Angeles detective Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman) in Arthur Penn’s 1975 Night Moves. Night Moves parallels the cinema detective’s reliance on second-hand and mediated information in his quest to solve the crime, with our own ever-increasing interdependence on the media for truth (and meaning). In Night Moves Harry Moseby eventually finds his answers, but for him time runs out. Breathing Under Water’s Beatrice wants to get wise before it’s too late. Like Dante, she’s determined to find a way through the problems of her time – a time epitomised by the advent and subsequent proliferation of the moving image.

At its inception, the moving image occupied a place where myth and technology met, and the Enlightenment’s true believers held high hopes for its potential – not only as an educator of the masses, but as a monitor of truth, an ultimate bearer of witness. An end to injustice seemed possible. But moving image technology was deeply entwined with the same technologies responsible for more and more effective ways of destroying ourselves. And as modernity’s filmed evidence piled up, the era recorded some of humanity’s greatest transgressions. What’s more, humanity’s failure to act was no less evident than in pre-moving image days. For Dante, history had become a nightmare which he had to rise above. For Breathing Under Water’s Beatrice, the nightmare is the mounting evidence, persistent and imperishable, of history’s wrongs – implicating her and her contemporaries in the eyes of generations to come.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

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