Sons of Matthew

Sons of Matthew (Charles Chauvel, 1949) wr. Charles Chauvel, Elsa Chauvel, Maxwell Dunn, novels by Bernard O'Reilly; Greater Union Theatres/Universal Pictures; shot in Qld; Michael Pate, Ken Wayne, Tommy Burns, John Unicomb, John Ewart, Wendy Gibb; 107 min.; aka The Rugged O'Riordans (overseas version)

Sons Of Matthew was an epic story of Australian pioneer life, tracing the story of three generations of settlers in rugged frontier land. ... The story of making the film was itself a tale of great perseverance in the face of formidable physical odds. ... The arduous months of the production revealed more clearly than ever before Chauvel's passionate urge to risk any cost and hazard in expressing his deeply nationalistic vision of a people in their struggle to conquer the most hostile of terrains. His methods were somewhat vindicated, however, by the emotional power of the film's best scenes and by its commercial success. The action scenes - above all the scenes of the cyclone - are still exciting and spectacular cinema, with genuine physical strain clearly evident in the performances. Pike & Cooper: 208, 209.

Chauvel's perfectionism, given virtual free rein for the first time, resulted in a a cleverly-constructed and stirring saga. The land-clearing and farm-building scenes on the Lamington Plateau have particular exuberance and documentary impact, and the catastrophes - a bushfire and a cyclone - are believably harrowing. Although the broad symbolic implications of national achievement, coupled with Chauvel's tendency to showcase the landscape, sometimes makes the main conflict between the two brothers stand out in melodramatic separation, the portrayal of family relationships is for the most part tight and convincing. Shirley & Adams: 173.


New: 1 December, 2012 | Now: 22 March, 2013 | garrygillard[at]gmail.com