From the uncompromising The Cars That Ate Paris to the conundrum that is The Way Back, Peter Weir has made his voice heard across the oceans, stimulated us in ways we'd never comprehended before. His great obsession: the preciousness of man, his humanity in the face of technology and nature.
Weir has made some of the most marvelous films of the past forty years; Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Last Wave, Witness, Fearless, The Truman Show and Master and Commander:The Far Side of the World spring to mind with the force of the singular vision behind them.
His new film is not to be missed. Mr. Weir has stated on the record that this is his final film. Only time will tell, but for now we can relish his newest creation.
He lays before us the twisted amalgam of Communism, wrecked lives and literal prisoners, beacons of light in a midnight Siberia. Jim Sturgess, Colin Farrell, Ed Harris, Mark Strong and Saorsie Ronan are all incredible, perfectly cast as the denizens of this decrepit past, Soviet fringe dwellers who, as Strong's brief but memorable character puts it, have "the will to see it through".
The gritty squalor of their existence is juxtaposed with Weir's trademark old school grandiosity, a robustness reminiscent of Lean. Russell Boyd's slow darkness creeping around focal points of low hard light soothes the omnipresent theme of man's submission to the tyrrany of nature. As we move along with these characters we memorize the actions of the spirit it takes to survive our fellow men and the world. Religious iconography seeps into the frames as we think of both Solzhenitsyn, the triumph of the will and the immensity of human potential.
Later sequences that are hard to shake include the religiosity of sun rays severing the center of a decimated monastery and Ronan wearing a crown of twigs, filthy hands in unison carrying her as a Virgin Mary/Dorothy Gale surrogate.
Though it has it's prickly passages and evades the smooth sailing of Weir's last epic, The Way Back lingers with you as strongly as Sturgess' fevered hallucination of home, seen through to it's final conclusion.