Australian Screen

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Sons of Matthew (1949)

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clip Virgins of the forest

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

Clip description

The O’Riordan boys are now grown into young men. Shane (Michael Pate), the eldest, has led them into virgin rainforest in south-east Queensland, where they intend to carve out a farm with axes and their bare hands. Before the great labour begins, the young men enjoy the pleasures of skinny-dipping in the mountain pools. The great trees soon begin to fall.

Curator’s notes

Chauvel’s sense of lyricism was never more obvious than in sequences like this – these are virile young men, magnificently proportioned and ready for the heroic task ahead. The music, by Henry Krips, accentuates the romanticism by using a male choir. It sounds like a western because it’s about the same sense of manifest destiny that drove the American western. Chauvel was an admirer of the great American directors like John Ford, who invented many of the techniques of the western. At the same time, Chauvel’s direction is very sensual. He was much more of a sensualist than any other director working in Australian film at the time. The nudity here isn’t simply titillation – although Chauvel certainly wasn’t averse to that, especially in his 1930s films. It’s meant to create a visual rhyme, between the perfect and beautiful tall trees, and the clean and muscular bodies of these young men. They are virgins in a virgin forest, and in a very clearly symbolic sense, one has come to assert dominance over the other.

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