Gallipoli (movie)

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Template:Infobox Movie Gallipoli is a 1981 film, directed by Peter Weir and starring Mel Gibson, about several young men from rural Western Australia who enlist in the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War. They are sent to Turkey, where they take part in the Battle of Gallipoli. During the course of the movie, the young men slowly lose their innocence about the nature of war. The climax of the movie occurs on the Anzac battlefield at Gallipoli and depicts the ill-fated attack at the Nek on the morning of the 7 August, 1915 by the 3rd Light Horse Brigade.

Gallipoli provides an faithful portrayal of life in rural Australia in the 1910s — reminiscent of Weir's 1975 film Picnic at Hanging Rock set in 1900 — and captures the ideals and character of the Australians who joined up to fight, and the conditions they endured on the battlefield. It does, however, modify events for dramatic purposes and to promote an anti-British agenda.

Gallipoli was mainly filmed in South Australia with some location work done at the Pyramids of Giza near Cairo which is where the AIF trained. Locations include Lake Torrens, a dry salt lake, and the coastline near Port Lincoln, which is used for the scenes at Anzac Cove.

The screenplay is by David Williamson and original music was provided by Australian composer Brian May (who had also scored Mad Max) however the most striking feature of the soundtrack was the use of excerpts from Oxygene by French electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre. Quiet or sombre moments at Gallipoli, and the closing credits, feature the Adagio in G minor by Tomaso Albinoni.

The film was produced by R&R Films, a production company owned by Robert Stigwood and media proprietor Rupert Murdoch whose father, Keith Murdoch, was a journalist during the First World War who had visited Gallipoli briefly in September 1915 and became an influential agitator against the conduct of the campaign by the British.

Due to the popularity of the Gallipoli battlefields as a tourist destination, the film is shown each night in a number of hostels and hotels in Eceabat and Çanakkale on the Dardanelles.

Gallipoli is roughly divided into three parts; the first third is set in Western Australia in May 1915 as the first news of the Gallipoli landings is published, the second third is set in Egypt and the final third at Gallipoli — battle only occupies the final minutes of the film.

A sub-text of the film is of "war as a game" and the two main characters, Archy Hamilton (played by Mark Lee) and Frank Dunne (Mel Gibson), meet at an athletics carnival. Both are sprinters and the numerous running sequences in the film are set to Jarre's Oxygene. Archy Hamilton's athlete character was inspired by a line from C.E.W. Bean's Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 describing Private Wilfred Harper of the 10th Light Horse during the attack at the Nek:

"Wilfred... was last seen running forward like a schoolboy in a foot-race, with all the speed he could compass."

Archy is an idealistic 18-year old stockman keen to join up even though he is under age. He is trained by his uncle Jack (played by Bill Kerr) and idolises Harry Lasalles, the world champion over 100 yards — when choosing a false name to enlist under, he calls himself "Archy Lasalles". Jack makes Archy recite a mantra before he runs:

Jack: What are your legs?
Archy: Springs. Steel springs.
Jack: What are they going to do?
Archy: Hurl me down the track.
Jack: How fast can you run?
Archy: As fast as a leopard.
Jack: How fast are you going to run?
Archy: As fast as a leopard.
Jack: Then lets see you do it.

Frank is a railway labourer of Irish descent with no interest in fighting for the British however bonds of "mateship" make him try for the light horse with Archy and, when he fails because he cannot ride, he joins the infantry with three of his mates, Billy, Barney and Snowy. Many of the motivations that compelled young men to join up appear; the propaganda associated with German attrocities in Belgium, the sense of adventure, the attraction of a smart uniform and the pressure from society to "do your bit".

In Egypt, Frank and his mates are encamped near the Pyramids and spend their free time in Cairo, drinking, being ripped off by merchants and visiting brothels. In a game of Australian Rules Football played beneath the Pyramids, screenwriter David Williamson appears in an uncredited cameo role as the Victorian "lofty bastard" who Frank tells Billy to target. During a shambolic training exercise, Frank and Archy meet once again and Frank is able to transfer to the light horse because they are now being sent to the Gallipoli peninsula as infantry.

Frank and Archy arrive at Anzac Cove and endure the hardships and boredom of the trench warfare that prevailed for much of the campaign. Frank's infantry mates fight in the battle of Lone Pine on the evening of 6 August — the fighting is implied but not depicted. The following morning Archy and Frank take part in the charge at the Nek which is to act as a diversion in support of the British landing at Suvla. Frank is made a runner for the regiment commander, Major Barton (played by Bill Hunter).

The 3rd Light Horse attack in three waves across a narrow stretch of exposed ground defended by machine guns. The first wave is timed to go at the end of an artillery bombardment, however failure to synchronise watches means the bombardment ends seven minutes early. Nevertheless, the brigade's English commander, Colonel Robinson insists the attack proceed; the first wave goes over the top and is cut down, the second wave follows to the same fate. Major Barton wants to halt the attack. Robinson, remote in his dugout gets a garbled message that marker flags, used to signal to friendly artillery, have been seen in the Turkish trenches, before shellfire cuts the phone lines. Barton gives Frank a message to carry to brigade HQ but when he arrives, Robinson insists the attack continue.

Frank returns to Barton and suggests he go over Robinson's head to the division commander, General Gardiner, an Australian. Frank runs to the beach and Gardiner's headquarters. The general, hearing that at Suvla "the officers are sitting on the beach drinking cups of tea", gives Frank the message that he is "reconsidering the whole situation", effectively cancelling the attack. As Frank sprints back, the phone lines are fixed and Robinson tells Barton to push on. Archy and the rest of the third wave go over the top. The final frame freezes on Archy in an image that evokes Robert Capa's famous photograph, Death of a Loyalist Soldier, Spain, 1936.

Accuracy

Gallipoli is a remarkably faithful depiction of conditions and events however, it deviates in a number of places.

It is implausible, but not impossible, that Archy could leave home in May, travel to Perth, join up, travel to Egypt, train and be at Gallipoli for the August Offensive; a period of less than three months. The original contingent of the AIF, which left Australia on 1 November, 1914, had taken a little over a month to travel from King George's Sound, Western Australia to Alexandria, Egypt. Between April and August 1915, only two reinforcements were sent to Egypt for the 10th Light Horse; the 6th Reinforcements on 25 June, which contained only one May enlistment, and the 7th Reinforcements on 30 June. So in reality, there were probably no May enlistments in the 10th Light Horse at the Nek. In the movie, Archy is part of the "10th Reinforcements", by which was probably meant "reinforcements for the 10th Light Horse" — the actual 10th Reinforcements of the 10th Light Horse did not leave Fremantle, Western Australia until 13 October 1915.

The first two waves of light horsemen to attack at the Nek were from the Victorian 8th Light Horse Regiment however the film shows a stockman from Archy's cattle station going in the second wave.

Also, it is unlikely, but not impossible, that Frank's infantry mates would have fought at Lone Pine, the main attack of which was carried out by the Australian 1st Division's 1st Brigade which came from New South Wales. The only West Australians at Lone Pine were from the 12th Battalion (3rd Brigade), a composite battalion with men from South Australia and Tasmania as well as West Australia, and this battalion was the second reserve, which saw little fighting on the night of 6 August. The main West Australian battalion in the 1st Division was the 11th Battalion which had fought a diversion a week before on 31 July.

In Egypt, the training camp at Mena near the Pyramids was closed shortly after the landing at Anzac Cove due to its proximity to Cairo and the problems with discipline this caused. By the time Archy and Frank would have arrived, the Australians were encamped at Heliopolis racecourse which was much pleasanter if less picturesque than Mena.

The notable deviation of Gallipoli from reality, and the one for which it has been criticised, is its portrayal of the chain of command at the Nek and of "Colonel Robinson", the brigade commander, as an Englishman. The implication being that an Englishman was responsible for the debacle when in reality it was wholly Australian-made. Colonel Robinson's character equates to the brigade-major of the 3rd Brigade, Colonel J.M. Antill, an Australian Boer War veteran. Nor was there a benevolent Australian general to call off the attack; it ended when all the waves had gone.

According to the film, the attack at the Nek is in support of the landing of the British IX Corps at Suvla, a few miles north of Anzac. In reality, the attack at the Nek was intended as support for New Zealand infantry attacking Chunuk Bair, a hill above the Nek. When the New Zealanders failed to reach Chunuk Bair by the morning of 7 August, the reason for the Nek attack had gone, however the commander of the New Zealand and Australian Division, General Alexander Godley, insisted the attack proceed.

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