In a Savage Land

In a Savage Land (Bill Bennett, 1999) wr. & prod. Bill Bennett, Jennifer Bennett; Maya Stange, Martin Harrison, Rufus Sewell, John Howard, Max Cullen; AFI Nomination 1999

One of the more ambitious Australian films, but the Bennetts do not succeed, partly because of the sentimental ending. See Charlotte Gray (Gillian Armstrong, 2001) for another example.

Married anthropologists voyage to a PNG island to study sexual behaviour of the locals. An interesting, gutsy first half trips its way into the second, which leans at times toward a storyline more befitting of a Mills and Boon novel. Still, a tale told well. Bill and Jennifer Bennett have written an intelligent role for just the right woman, unearthing a star in Maya Stange. Independent Filmmakers, October 1999: 17

The release version is subtly different to the one I first saw, which had a more melancholy ending. After much debate, Bennett has gently re-shaped the film's final 20 minutes, cutting about nine minutes and giving the ending a tad more romantic optimism, which delivers a better payoff for most audiences. In the process, we lose a plot point or two, but this doesn't detract from the scope and craftsmanship of this superbly creative piece of cinema. Andrew L. Urban, Urban Cinefile.

This big-scaled but lamely mounted South Pacific adventure is an old-fashioned turkey that feels small despite the breadth of the story attempted. No thesps stand out in the middling ensemble job, the sexual politics are old hat, and even pretty pictures of the Trobriand Islands aren't memorable. ... Auds are left to ponder such uninteresting questions because the Bennetts (helmer's wife, Jennifer Bennett, co-scripted) manage to make two hours feel like too much time to get across a thin polemic pretending to be an era's worth of ripe material. Ken Eisner, Variety.


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