(Scott Millwood, Australia, 2003)


Landscape photography is far more effective on a big screen than a small one. That is a good reason to catch the Australian documentary Wildness, about the photographic artists Olegas Truchanas and Peter Dombrovskis, in a cinema rather than tape or television.

Both men lived and worked in Tasmania, the older (Truchanas) serving as a mentor to the younger. Both had East European origins. Spookily, both men lost part of their work to fire and both died in the wilderness. Above all, both lent their aesthetic vision to a political cause, the efforts to save Lake Pedder and the Franklin River from industrial redevelopment.

Writer-director Scott Millwood modestly but elegantly weaves together the biographies of these two gifted men. The point is well made that the scars of history which had been imprinted on them led to their passion for stemming the devastation of this natural "paradise". For Dombrovskis, in a touching reflection that we hear several times, the wilderness of nature echoes the positive "wildness" in human beings.

There are affectionate testimonies from interviewees including the various partners and friends of the subjects, including Green politician Bob Brown. One can, however, tire of hearing the pontifications of writer Richard Flanagan on the soul of Tasmania every time this state hits the news spotlight.

Happily, the central feature of this film is the photography of Truchanas and Dombrovskis. Millwood recreates Truchanas' epic slide presentations. And cinematographers Robert Humphreys and Wade Fairley meet the daunting challenge of finding present day moving-picture equivalents to the camera-visions of these men.

MORE Australian documentary: Facing the Music, One Way Street, Carlton + Godard = Cinema, Mamadrama, Mademoiselle and the Doctor, Original Schtick

© Adrian Martin September 2003

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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