Originally published in Comfort Zone Newsletter: August 2012
Here’s another film with an HSP as the main character. The Last Wave is a strange movie, for sure. Not quite a surfing flick. Peter Weir, the director, is Australian, and the movie is about a Sydney lawyer who is asked to defend some urban aborigines accused of murder and discovers that they are still “tribal,” still practicing their traditional ways of tribal justice, which no one had thought possible. After witnessing some spooky weather, we meet the main character (played by Richard Chamberlain, if any of you recall Doctor Kildare) and are shown his sensitivity through his simple gestures at a window and his response to the gift of a vegetable. It’s subtle and beautiful. From there the movie becomes increasingly strange.
Our HSP is having premonitions of a huge wave, way beyond a mere tidal wave, that is going to sweep over Sydney. He sees water coming out of his car radio. He looks at an ad for the zoo on a bus and sees everyone there floating about in water. He comes home and his bathtub upstairs mysteriously overflows and floods the dining room during dinner. He is being flooded, and his lovely wife and two daughters will be soaked well. He is being made conscious of the “unconscious” primordial mind, often symbolized in dreams by the ocean and all that the ocean can do. In this case inundates. The message in part is that modern humans have lost contact with the world of dreams and magic. In Australia it lives in the neighborhood, in the Aborigines so recently dispossessed and ignored by the whites. The citizens of Sydney forget at their peril the real forces at work beneath the façade of western culture.
When his father tells the main character that as a child he knew how his mother would die before it happened, he is even more concerned that his visions and dreams are real. There is a scene in which the father asks the son to try to get back to “normal” and the son confronts the father in turn, a Christian minister, that he has failed to teach the real mysteries of life. “We have lost our dreams.” Meanwhile the aborigines begin to suspect that our HSP is an incarnation of a very special form of being, and he begins to see that it may be true. The climax is mysterious and awesome.
One of my favorite books is Voices of the First Day by Robert Lawlor (reviewed in CZ Volume III of the paper version, Issue 4, November 1998). I realize that I look to aboriginal (in the sense of “original or earliest known”) cultures all over the world for a sense of what is “natural” for humans. We have added so many convoluted ideas and customs to our natural behaviors, be it sex, eating, elimination, art, or anything else we do. How did we do it earlier in our evolution? One elder tells a young man from the city how sad it is that the boy has to work all day to pay for his food–in the bush it only takes an hour to gather enough food for a day. That’s how we all once “made a living.”
Were we all more sensitive before the high levels of stimulation we experience today? Lawlor argues, for example, that the Australian aborigines chose deliberately not to live indoors or wear clothing (they made ritual shelters and clothing, so they had the concepts) because it interfered with their ability to sense the magnetic fields that guided them from one food source to another as it became ready seasonally. These were the so-called “song lines.” Today some HSPs sense electromagnetic radiation, but it is troubling, occurring out of its natural context.
Obviously Peter Weir had deep feelings about the Aborigines. His first movie, Picnic at Hanging Rock, has only one and you have to watch for him, a tracker in an ironically silly costume who never speaks. But the movie is about a famous feature of Australian landscape, an outcrop of rock as large as a castle, and the fascination it holds over a few girls from a prim Victorian girls’ school who go there on a school picnic outing, slip away to climb it, and vanish. We can sense that Hanging Rock was and still is a sacred place, and that there is an aboriginal undercurrent working in the minds of these Victorian girls in their white lace dresses that is going to sweep over us all in Weir’s next major movie, The Last Wave.