Dir: Fred Zinnemann
Str: Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr, Peter Ustinov, Glynis Johns
Australia. What a beautiful country! The Sundowners depicts this
very beautiful country as it is.
The Sundowners is an astonishingly beautiful movie. All scenes being
shot in Australia, you, by watching this movie, will certainly be able to feel the strong force of the sun shower
in Australia, and easily understand that the richness in the fauna and the flora in Australia surely comes from
this abundance of powerful sun energy. Throughout the movie, the weather seems to be always bright and clear, and
that is as if suggesting there was no rainy or even cloudy day in Australia. Although, of course, Japan, where
I live, has its own nature too, this richness and intensity of Australia's nature seems to be completely different
from the ones of Japan. In this regard, I consider there are two kinds of natures. One is real nature that preserves
the raw state of natural environment and has never been touched by human intervention. The other is tamed nature
that has been altered by human meddling to fit it to their convenience. In Japan, as its land area is very small,
all the places but several very small parts have been completely developed and irrigated. If you ride on trains
in Japan, and go to many many places, you will surely know what I am saying. No wilderness at all, That's what.
Therefore, when we mention the word "nature", usually it means this tamed and artificial nature whether
or not we notice the fact. On the other hand, Australia seems to have the abundance of nature in the former meaning
as well as in the latter one. In the SF movie (and the novel) On the beach, Australia is the last place
nuclear contamination comes and all living forms are to be destined to perish. Probably, this honored selection
of Australia as the last surviving place might be reflecting the thought Australia should be the most suitable
place for nourishing and preserving many life forms. Also, in the movie The Sundowners, you can see many
life forms preserved under the bright and lush environment through camera eyes. I consider this alone can make
the movie worth watching. However, what I want to say the most in this review is slight different; that is, I want
to say I've noticed the mental inclination according to which one can stabilize own mental as well as geographic
structure or rather should say co-ordinate based matrix is quite different between in Japan and in Australia. The
difference probably could be attributed to the difference between a nomadic culture whose prominent characteristic
is an itenerant living style and an agricultural one whose prominent characteristic is to settle down in one place.
Japan is a typical country that should be classified as the latter category. Though I will explain this later by
mentioning some Japanese movie series, in Japan, even if a nomad-like life can be a someone's dream, it is absolutely
alien to traditional Japanese way of thinking.
For Robert Mitchum who is essentially a nomad, settling down
means nothing but getting stuck.
In this movie The Sundowners, Robert Mitchum plays a sheep driver. Hence,
he is always wandering around all over Australia, which means he is certainly a born nomad. Although his wife (played
by Deborah Kerr) wants to settle down, he seems to have no intention of doing so, because, for him, settling down
means nothing but getting stuck as he says several times in the movie. In an earlier scene, when Kerr asks him
a question "How many acres do you own?", he answers to it by saying "All of Australia, that's I
own. The rivers, the plains, all of it.". We ought to be very careful the meaning of the word "own"
is quite different between him and his wife. For him, "own" doesn't necessarily mean personal possession
or private property. Because, for him, private property is not so important. By saying so, I don't mean he is a
communist. Essentially communism is an idea that is an anti-thesis of capitalism. But, in his case, from first,
there is no such notion like capital either that is only possible to arise when the notion like private property
takes into effect. Therefore, he is manifesting he is devoid of such notion like personal possession when he says
he owns a whole Australia. On the other hand, obviously Kerr isn't a born nomad. The reason why she wants to settle
down is because itinerant living is completely unfamiliar with her whole system, and, therefore, her anxiety about
living a nomad life mainly comes from her inherent disposition, not from logical guess like living a nomad life
would be completely precarious. But, the same is true to Mitchum in reverse way. His system is entirely molded
by his life as a nomad, hence, for him, settling down in one place means he must change completely, and must discard
most of his already acquired identity.
Settling down in one place is totally different from a normadic way
of life not only in the meaning of life style, but also in the
of perceptual patterns.
At this point, it should be added that settling down in one place is totally
different from a nomadic way of life not only in the meaning of life style, but also in the meaning of perceptual
patterns. Settling down, at the same time, means introducing a fixed point in one's vision toward everything. And
it forces the persons employing it to see everything from the view point that originates in that fixed point. Conversely,
a nomad life makes it difficult for persons to form this fixed view point due to their everlasting itinerant life.
And this lack of a fixed view point prevents persons from forming the notion like private property, for, only through
a fixed view point, one can demarcate a certain area as his own territory from others. If I dare to say in one
ward the way of thinking of a nomad, it would be simultaneity and ubiquity. When he says he owns a whole Australia,
probably he is saying he can be anywhere in Australia at any time. No matter how it seems to be impossible for
us non-nomads, it's definitely possible to him, for his vision is never organized in chronological order either
that also requires a fixed view point. For example, he likes gambles. Losing money doesn't have so much meaning
for him, much less having surplus money by saving it. It should be well considered that, if there was no fixed
view point, what would be the point of having money at any other time than now, that is completely equivalent to
the present. On the other hand, Kerr is always trying to save money in a jar, and wants to have their own firm
some day. This is suggesting she is always thinking from a fixed view point, that originates in the present time
and stretches forward to the future. Therefore, losing money could jeopardize her entire view and entire life that
was structured according to this view. Thus, as you can see, the difference between Mitchum and Kerr is tremendously
Japanese movie series "Otokowaturaiyo" is well reflecting
Japanese traits as an agricarural race despite the fact the
protagonist Tora-san is supposed to be living like a nomad.
Up to this point, I have explained how far is the distance between a normadic
way of thinking and an agricultural one. I am going to explain it further by using the Japanese movie series "Otokowaturaiyo"
that means it's hard to be a man. This movie series is very famous in Japan, though I think it is not so famous
in foreign countries compared to the works made by the renowned Japanese directors such as Akira Kurosawa or Yasujiro
Ozu. Though the popuarity of this movie series in Japan might be able to be attributed to the fact the movies are
reflecting Japanese mentality very well, I am not going to discuss it here, for, for foreigners most of whom I
suppose has never watched them, I presume it would be no use of hearing such an argument. Anyway, this movie series
depicts a person called Tora-san (played always by a Japanese actor Kiyoshi Atsumi) who is supposed to be always
wandering around all over Japan. The reason why I said "supposed to be" is because the movies of this
series always (I must confess, as I haven't seen all of the movies of the series, saying "always" might
be improper) start at the point Tora-san comes back to the house he was born from his "suppose to be"
wandering journey. The house is located upon in an ordinary town called Shibamata in Tokyo. In short, the stories
always revolve around this fixed place Shibamata, even if Tora-san is supposed to be living like a nomad. I consider
this reflects the situation in Japan very well. As I said before, from first, Japan is an extremely tiny country.
This fact makes it practically impossible to live like a nomad in Japan, for all the places are always studded
with people, and, hence, highly centralized agriculture was and is the best solution to live in Japan, which eventually
has fostered Japanese traits as a settling down agricultural race. Therefore, despite the fact this character Tora-san
could be considered to be the reflection of Japanese craving for a nomad-like life, it will never occur in Japan
in real meaning. Because, as the movies suggests, even when they are thinking a wandering life, there is always
a fixed point in the center on their mind to which they can come back any time. This is completely opposite to
the life of Robert Mitchum in The Sundowners.
Are sheep actually hopping like athletes as shown in this movie?
But, such kind of life wouldn't be possible without the support of nature.
Australia has this richness in its nature as I said in the first paragraph. The movie the sundowners definitely
succeeding in conveying the feeling it would be possible through the beautifully recorded scenery of Australia.
Though I think this movie is slightly long (about 130 minutes), probably you would forget the passage of time by
just watching marvelous scenes of Australia. Finally, I would like to say I want to know whether the scene sheep
are hopping with athlete-like supple dexterity is some kind of camera trick or actually they do such a thing. Teach
me if you happen to know.