Gallipoli - Gallipoli Director: Peter Weir, Australia, 1981...

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Unformatted text preview: Gallipoli Director: Peter Weir, Australia, 1981 1 10 minutes Script writers: David Williamson and Peter Weir Location: Western Australia, Egypt, and the peninsula of Gallipoli (European Turkey) May through August 1915 The Main Characters: Archy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) Frank Dunne (Mark Lee) The Plot: In May 1915, two promising young Australian runners [Archy and Frank] meet. Both are going to Perth, the metropolis of Western Australia. Caught up in the patriotic enthusiasm of World War I, Archy is leaving home in the Australian. “outback” to try to enlist; Frank is simply trying to get back to his home turf. They become close friends (“mates”) in the process of crossing a section of the Australian “outback” Archy, with Frank’s help, joins the Tenth Light Horse Regiment. Frank, not intending to get involved at first, tries to enlist with his “mate,” but is unable to join because he is from an urban background and never learned to ride a horse. He ends up joining the Australian infantry instead with another group of “mates.” Both Archy and Frank are shipped to Egypt for training, where they meet again in July 1915. They train in the shadows of the Pyramids, visit Egyptian shops and brothels when on leave, and generally have a good time. Eventually the two are reunited in the same unit, with Frank being permitted to transfer to the Tenth Light Horse because the Tenth was being sent to the Gallipoli Peninsula in European Turkey where battle lines between Anzac (Australian and New Zealand) troops and their Turkish opponents have been stalemated for several months, with Australians pinned within a few hundred yards of the beach. Due to their running skills, Frank and Archy often serve as messengers between units, since artillery fire often knocked out wire communications (there was no effective wireless at the time). Frank is serving as messenger during the disastrous Australian assault on Turkish positions carried out by the Tenth Light Horse on August 7, 1915, (discussed below) that forms the climax of the movie. Background: The Gallipoli Campaign The popular View of World War I is of a European conflict between the British, French, Russians, and Americans on one side and the Germans and Austro-Hungarians on the other. World War I, however, was far more global. Most of the European participants had colonies or former colonies with close ties to their motherlands, and the war sucked these in as well, some willingly (Australia, Canada), and some unwillingly. Australia, a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations when the war broke out in 1914, considered itself British and immediately declared war on Germany. Australia ultimately sent 300,000 men from its sparse population of less than five million. Almost 60,000 died. Australians fought on a variety of fronts in World War I: in France, in Egypt, in Palestine, in Africa, in the Pacific, and in Turkey. Australians most remember, however, their soldiers’ sacrifices in a barren portion of European Turkey —- the Gallipoli Peninsula. April 25th (Anzac Day), the anniversary of the first landing of Australian (and New Zealand) troops on April 25, 1915, in what came to be called Anzac Cove (see map on following page) on the Gallipoli Peninsula is perhaps the country’s most important national holiday, equivalent, perhaps, to Memorial Day or the 4th of July in the United States. Why were Australian troops at Gallipoli fighting the Turks anyway? The predecessor of the modern Turkish state was the Ottoman Empire, which had allied itself with Germany in World War I. The western democracies (Britain and France and their allies) decided to open a major campaign against the Ottoman Empire in early 1915 afier the main front in France had bogged down. In France, battle lines ran unbroken for 350 miles from neutral Switzerland to the North Sea. There was no way to avoid frontal assaults on well-fortified trenches by outflanking the opposition. The power of newly developed defensive weaponry, notably machine guns, repeating rifles, and accurate field artillery, however, made frontal assaults on entrenched positions suicidal. In the first three months of the war in France alone, battle casualties numbered nearly two million men. Winston Churchill, then first lord of the British admiralty, hoped to break the deadlock in France by attacking the Ottoman Empire (Turkey), instead. He believed that Turkey was weak and vulnerable and could quickly be knocked out of the war. Knocking the Ottoman Empire out of the war would not only eliminate a German ally but also open year-round sea borne communications between Britain and France and their struggling ally to the east, Russia. Churchill believed that the key to quickly knocking the Ottoman Empire out of the war was getting the large guns of British and French ships under the walls of Constantinople (Istanbul today), the empire’s capital. What made this difficult was that the sea passage leading from the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas [see maps on the next page] to Constantinople ran through the long, narrow water passage (strait) between Europe and Asia called the “Dardanelles.” The Gallipoli Peninsula formed the European side of the straits. At “the Narrows,” the Dardanelles was less than a mile wide. Turkish shore batteries on both shores of the straits and mines in the water impeded the passage of warships. An attempt to run ships through in March 1915 failed, so Churchill decided that it was necessary to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula for the plan to succeed. Overall command of the campaign was in British hands. Although, most of the troops sent to capture Gallipoli in late April 1915 were Anzacs and they were solely Suvla Bay i Aegean ' Sea 5% Lisa D Northr ‘: Sea' c 2. .':l . ‘50' -. " .D" C>:; front H(3E MAleYo "r (line R U s s I A “J1. 'Re e Z’L/ :W Allied terri- torial gains April-Aug. Asiatic TUrkey EGYPT Germany 'and Allies WORLD WAR I IN EUROPE & WEST ASIA, 1915 “ 7‘7? .V\j’°n ’0 o.~°"' °£o \ .V _¢-;c;slr°., a ‘) \ m.___ a ’ ' .‘AUSTRIA- o v \\ D a “gummfo ,. v o 9 ' o 9’ . . o 0 fi,q,%3uma§}g ' o 0" .‘ pr "L\ E Bulgari “ * "—11~ ’- . l I \‘a’l’~ c .‘ . a *6 b, o o , r . ‘ ° ' v o i v I o eOTTOMAN .EMP RE , ’ o o c D 0 b r 0' *(TfiRKEvY . b a {I ‘a 000 o no 'r o ;’ a o; 0 1 I' ' ° 2 D \\o ’.\ responsible for the Anzac Cove landing, large numbers of British (and French) troops participated in the campaign as well in separate landings. The Gallipoli campaign was a catastrophe for the Allies. In the month that had passed since the abortive attempts to run ships through the Dardanelles, the Turks had moved large numbers of troops onto the peninsula and had fortified high ground with trenches, artillery, machine guns, and barbed wire. Allied troops, when they landed, were usually held to low ground. The Australian troops landed at Anzac Bay (on “The Nek” — one of the narrowest parts of the Gallipoli Peninsula) and managed to drive only a few hundred yards inland before being stopped by Turkish troops who held the top of the ridges that formed the center of the peninsula. [see map on previous page] As the movie graphically illustrates, the Australians were largely pinned to the side of cliffs and bluffs along the shoreline. The trench warfare the Allies had hoped to escape was soon duplicated on Gallipoli. Reinforcements had to be brought in at night (also depicted in the movie) since Turkish artillery could still dominate the beaches. Attempts through frontal assaults to break the stalemate failed. In early August 1915 the British commander-in-chief of the Gallipoli front decided to make new landings at Suvla Bay, further up the peninsula, hoping to trap the Turkish forces that were pinning allied troops down. To confuse the Turks and prevent them from moving reinforcements to oppose the Suvla Bay landing, the British commander ordered Australian and New Zealand forces to launch a series of frontal assaults against Turkish lines at Anzac cove. These assaults occurred on August 7, 1915. The results were predictably suicidal, especially since it involved charging uphill on foot into well-entrenched Turkish positions defended by machine guns. Due to faulty synchronization of watches the artillery bombardment that was designed to keep the Turks pinned down until just before the attack terminated seven minutes too early. Four waves of Australian troops went over the top at about two-minute intervals. Later waves saw the carnage as preceding waves were annihilated, but they went over the top when their turn came. Most of the attacking troops were hit by rifle and machine gun fire as soon as they lefi the trenches: 90% of the attackers were casualties in 10 minutes. While the Australian troops attacked, British landed unopposed at Suvla Bay. However, poor intelligence and disorganization at the landing site enabled the brilliant Turkish commander, Kemal Ataturk, to quickly move his troops to face the new threat, leading to yet another stalemate. Allied forces withdrew in January 1916 after suffering nearly 300,000 casualties. The Turks suffered comparable losses. The movie Gallipoli focuses on two Australian youths in the Tenth Australian Light Horse who landed as reinforcements to the tiny enclave occupied by Australian and New Zealand troops at Anzac Cove and were involved in the diversionary attack on August 7, 1915. What to Look for in the Movie: One of the first things you should notice in the film is the geographical setting of the early portion of the film: the Australian outback. Most of the interior of the Australian continent is desert or semi—desert. It is hot, dry, and either under or unpopulated. Before the coming of European colonists in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, only small numbers of aborigines existed in the area, and it remains to this day largely an arid waste. The early portion of the movie was filmed in south Australia and hence accurately depicts the climate and geography of the region. Just as the struggle to explore and settle American west helped form the American character, the similar Australian outback helped form Australian character and attitudes. Because Australians come from the same basic British stock as many Americans, because they speak English (although with a unique accent), and because they are part of Western civilization, Americans do not necessarily see Australians as coming from a different cultural background. But even closely related cultures have subtle, but important, differences. You can pick up several of these by watching the movie closely, for Gallipoli portrays several Australian cultural features that are unique. One of the key Australian character traits that emerged from the Australian experience with the arid and dangerous outback is one that is very visible in Gallipoli if you watch for it closely: “mateship.” It helps explain many of the actions of the two main characters. “Mateship” is a distinctly Australian male relationship that has its roots in surviving in the outback during Australia’s early days. It has very little to do with sexuality and everything to do with a deep and lasting friendship between two men. Australia’s interior is dangerous. Early historical explorations through the arid interior, like the notorious Burke and Wills expedition of 1860 —l 861, ended in death. Mateships formed in order for men to survive and live in the outback; it became a major social dynamic in the new colony, and spread beyond its original purpose and setting to the rest of Australian society. Mateship is difficult for the American mind to grasp. Our mythic roots lie in the ideal of independence, the ability to stand alone, to do things by ourselves, without help. For the Austrian male, mateship is deeper than our definition of friendship. A man is so tied to his mate in Australia that it threatens to be crippling because it overrides all other human ties, especially relationships with women. The closest words we have to explain mateship are the words soul mate or spiritual connection, but mateship has nothing to do with religious attitudes. It is ideally synonymous with unselfish fratemalism, encompassing deep mutual support and friendship, mutual regard and trust engendered by two men working together in the solitary bush, habits of mutual helpfulness, leading to gratitude and then to regard. Men under these circumstances often stand by one another through thick and thin; a man ought to be able to trust his own mate in anything. In Gallipoli you can see mateship slowly forming between the two main characters (Archy and Frank) and playing out in their subsequent activities. When they tell people that they are mates, Austrians understand the relationship, and allow the two to stay together. Mateship emerged as a means of survival in the dangerous terrain of the Australian outback. Their relationships with women fade to the distant background. But the danger Frank and Archy encounter at Gallipoli is too severe. Thus the ending of the film has great pathos for the Australian male who has experienced mateship himself. Knowing the friendship between Archy and Frank is as deep as mateship, the ending of Gallipoli struck the heart of Australians in a way we have difficulty experiencing. Another aspect of Australian male social behavior portrayed somewhat less forcefully in the film is the Australian ocker (pronounced ah’-ker). In brief, an ocker is something like an American redneck, but different. He possesses many of the characteristics we assign to “rednecks”: uncouth behavior, crude speech, hard drinking, tough talking, prejudice against those who are a bit different, a macho image of himself, and love of sports (especially football). Because Weir intended his film for an international audience and wanted his main characters to be liked for the sake of theatricality, ocher characters are somewhat muted in Gallipoli, but they are there: Frank Dunne is an urban ocker in toned down form; the station hand who races Archy on horseback is also one, but in a less toned down form. Gallipoli is an antiwar movie, one of the best (along with Paths of Glory, All Quiet 0n the Western Front, and Saving Private Ryan). Notice how the director manages to convey antiwar sentiments without being overly blatant about it, even before the main characters arrive at the battlefront. One example is when Archy and Frank, early in the movie, meet an old prospector in the salt flats who didn’t even know there was a war going on. He can’t understand why Archy is so anxious to enlist. Archy replies: “Because if we don’t stop the Germans there, they will come over here.” The old man looks around at the arid wasteland and says: “They are welcome to it.” The views of the wounded and the assault scenes at Gallipoli speak for themselves. Yes, there is the courage and love of country portrayed in the film, but the awfulness of war stands out. Look also for relations between the British and the Australians in the film. Note, for example, the scene in the streets of Cairo between two arrogant British officers wearing eyepieces and the group of Australian soldiers. Note also the insensitivity of the British officer ordering yet another attack on the Turkish positions. Movies reflect the political views of their scriptwriters, directors, and producers, and this is no exception. Weir, the director, has sympathized with attempts to convert Australia into a republic, severing remaining ties with Britain and ending the role of the Queen of Britain as the titular head of the Australian government. His anti-British feelings come out in the film. The script puts the British in a generally bad light in the campaign, making British officers seem arrogant and insensitive to Australian sacrifices. British troops suffered heavy casualties as well (they landed at the foot of the Gallipoli Peninsula and also got bogged down, but one would not get that impression from the movie). Moreover, it was an Australian officer, not a British general (as the film depicts), who stubbornly refused to call off the hopeless August 7 attack. However, Australians were from a frontier society, and the movie is correct in portraying their boisterous, irreverent behavior and lack of courtesy towards the usually more stiff British officers that they occasionally came into contact with. American behavior towards officers was ofien similar at the time. One final note, Weir’s depiction of period dress, music, and weaponry is very accurate for the period. His depiction of trench warfare in arid climates is likewise accurate. Study Questions: 1. The Australian army was a volunteer force. No one was forced to join. Scenes in the movie illustrate the chaotic and deadly conditions under which combat occurred in World War I. In this light, why would anyone enlist in the Australian army? 2. More than half of the movie Gallipoli takes place before the two main characters even arrive at Gallipoli. Why is this? Why do the director and screenwriter spend so much time in places like western Australia and Egypt before finally taking the Viewer to the place for which the film is named? 3. In has been said that generals often fight wars using the tactics of the previous war with often disastrous consequences. World War I is a classic case of attempting to use 19th century tactics against 20th century weapons. What episodes in the film demonstrate the failure of military officers to adapt their training and tactics to the new technologies of warfare? (be specific) 4. The study guide suggests that one unique Australian cultural trait that you I should be able to notice in the movie is “mateship.” Describe how the “mateship” bond formed between Archy and Frank and how their activities and actions became closely intertwined once that bond formed. 5. The Gallipoli campaign was disastrous. Yet of all the campaigns in World War I, it is the one most remembered in Australia’s national consciousness and helped create a distinct Australian national identity (previously Australians had often considered themselves British). Why do Australians remember a catastrophic defeat? How could Gallipoli help establish a distinct Australian national identity? Terry Reynolds and Deborah Bruch ...
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This note was uploaded on 11/01/2009 for the course GEN ERAL taught by Professor Stud during the Spring '09 term at Michigan Technological University.

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Gallipoli - Gallipoli Director: Peter Weir, Australia, 1981...

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