Australian
Screen

an NFSA website

Burke & Wills (1985)

play May contain names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
Email a link to this page
To:
CC:
Subject:
Body:
clip Nearing the end

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

Clip description

Burke (Jack Thompson), Wills (Nigel Havers) and King (Matthew Fargher) trudge towards the depot they left more than four months earlier at Cooper Creek. It is 21 April 1861. They have no food and the fourth member of the party, Charley Gray, has already died. At the depot, William Brahe (Drew Forsythe) rakes over the ground where he has buried a box full of food, hoping to hide it from the local Aborigines. He does not want to leave, but he is worried about one of his men, who is gravely ill.

A young Aboriginal hunter returns to his family group near the creek, to recount what he has seen: the return of the strange white men who passed through some months earlier. The women, harvesting nardoo, stop to listen to his story. Brahe takes one last look at the horizon through his telescope. The Aborigines try to tell him what they have seen, but he can’t understand them. He leaves, a few hours before Burke, Wills and King arrive.

Curator’s notes

The final masterful shot in this clip gives a sense of how unlucky Burke and Wills were on that day, 21 April. The sequence is full of irony and aching contrast. The Aborigines are well fed and healthy, able to live comfortably on this land. The other men who have stayed at the depot are also well fed, although one is gravely ill, and will die on the return journey to Menindee. The misunderstanding, when Brahe misinterprets what the Aborigines are saying to him, is indicative of the whole expedition.

The movie was shot by one of Australia’s greatest cinematographers, Russell Boyd, and we see his superb craftsmanship in this clip, especially in that final continuous shot, which runs for more than a minute without a cut. The score is by Peter Sculthorpe, one of Australia’s greatest composers. It adds considerable weight to the searing drama of this sequence.

Graeme Clifford was significantly influenced in his conception of the film by the series of Burke and Wills paintings by Sidney Nolan, made after Nolan’s visit to Central Australia in 1949, just before he left Australia. Nolan’s paintings were also a major influence on Nicolas Roeg’s 1971 film Walkabout, which in turn influenced this film’s look (Clifford had worked as an editor with Roeg in the UK). Clifford invited Sir Sidney and Lady Nolan to accompany him during the shooting of Burke & Wills as official artist. Nolan sketched and painted scenes of the filming. Burke had also taken an official artist on his original expedition.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer Nearing the end from the feature film Burke & Wills as a high quality video download.

To play the downloadable video, you need QuickTime 7.0, VLC, or similar.

You must read and agree to the following terms and conditions before downloading the clip:

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:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

This clip is available in the following configurations:

File nameSizeQualitySuitability
burkewil3_pr.mp4 Large: 22.1MB High Optimised for full-screen display on a fast computer.
burkewil3_bb.mp4 Medium: 10.4MB Medium Can be displayed full screen. Also suitable for video iPods.

Right-click on the links above to download video files to your computer.

Thanks to the generosity of the rights holders, we are able to offer this clip in an embeddable format for personal or non-commercial educational use in full form on your own website or your own blog.

You must read and agree to the following terms and conditions before embedding the clip:

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:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

Copy and paste the following code into your own web page to embed this clip: