Friday, September 18, 2015

#1,859. Long Weekend (1978) - Spotlight on Australia

Directed By: Colin Eggleston

Starring: John Hargreaves, Briony Behets, Mike McEwen

Tag line: "Their crime was against nature...Nature found them guilty"

Trivia: Not all the financing for this picture had been completed and finalized when principal photography started on this movie

From classics (Aguirre: The Wrath of God) to more recent offerings (All is Lost), the battle between Man and Nature has been explored on-screen in a variety of movies. Long Weekend, a 1977 Australian film directed by Colin Eggleston, takes things one step further by showing us what happens when nature gets pissed off.

In an effort to rejuvinate their crumbling marriage, Peter (John Hargreaves) and Marcia (Briony Behets) head to a secluded beach, where they will spend the holiday weekend camping and relaxing in the sun. Unfortunately, the two just don’t get along, and often take their frustrations out on the natural world, leaving their trash lying around and killing a number of woodland creatures.

And nature is about to fight back!

Peter's and Mary's ignorant behavior begins well before they arrive at the campsite. While driving, Peter tosses a cigarette out the window, inadvertently kicking off a small brush fire. Then, a few more miles down the road, he runs over a kangaroo. Things continue to go downhill once they reach their destination. After setting up their tent, Peter grabs an axe and starts cutting down a tree. When Marcia asks why he’s doing it, Peter replies “Why not?

But nature isn’t about to take this lying down. Peter, at one point, is attacked by an eagle looking for its egg (Marcia had found it earlier), yet this pales in comparison to what happens when Peter shoots a sea cow, which had been swimming nearby (initially, he mistook it for a shark or some other predator. In a well-orchestrated, tense build-up, however,  which stretches over a number of scenes, the sea cow proves plenty threatening enough!).

Playing a couple of jerks, both leads deliver exceptional performances. Behets' Marcia is downright belligerent through most of the film, shouting insults at her husband and complaining about having to spend the weekend in a tent, while Hargreaves' Peter, who claims to be an outdoorsman, has no respect for nature. Strolling along the beach, he tosses his empty beer bottles into the water, then shoots at them with his rifle. There wasn’t a single moment in Long Weekend where I was pulling for these two.

The closing scenes wrap the story up perfectly, and are disturbing, to say the least. A moment when Marcia drives off on her own is harrowing. But even at this late stage, we’re rooting for nature to win out in the end.

And it’s obvious the filmmakers felt the exact same way.

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