Band 6 Judith Wright + Red Dog / No Intro

                       Judith Wright’s poem The Hawthorn Hedge evocatively represents the landscape as a sanctuary and source of opportunity for individuals. This poem reflects Wright’s concerns about the conflict between her love of the landscape and the colonialists’ dispossession of the Aborigines. Wright utilises the cumulative listing of positive imagery in “Her hands were strong in the earth,/ her glance on the sky,/ her song was sweet on the wind” to represent the land as a sanctuary and source of hope for these transplanted colonialists who attempt to transform the landscape into a familiar entity. However, the dichotomous imagery in “that barrier thorn across the hungry ridge;/ thorn and snow” depicts the landscape as harsh and beyond humans’ control. The upsetting of this natural balance is analogous to the Europeans’ dispossession of the Aborigines. Furthermore, Wright portrays how this guilt of invading Indigenous Australians’ native land conflicts with a love of the landscape. The consequences of society’s failure to come to terms with this guilt parallels the seclusion of the woman in the poem. Readers are positioned to understand this through the symbolism of the hawthorn hedge, an introduced plant which “took root, grew wild and high/ to hide behind”, underscoring how that while nature may become a sanctuary for individuals unable to face their past, it is also a physical and figurative barrier preventing a harmonious coexistence with the Australian landscape. Wright utilises the personification in “wind turns her grindstone heart and whets/ a thornbranch like a knife” to emphasise that as a result of not confronting Indigenous issues, contemporary Australian society is unable to fully appreciate the role of the landscape in shaping humans. Thus Wright positions readers to view the land as a sanctuary and beacon of hope for individuals unable to reconcile with their past.

Like Wright in Hawthorn Hedge, Stenders represents the landscape as a source of opportunity for individuals who migrate to a new place. [context] Red Dog revolves around a dog who travels all over Western Australia in search of his deceased owner. The film is mainly set in Dampier, a mining town which Red Dog frequents. Like the woman in the above poem, the miners who hail from all around the world regard their landscape as being rich in potential. Their multiculturalism is conveyed through the use of credit titles listing the different countries of origin. However, the miners also feel a sense of longing for their home countries. This is most evidently seen through the use of humour in a medium shot when Benno, an Italian man, talks about his hometown so much that other miners punch him. A scene of all the miners standing together, their body postures threatening as they cross their arms, outside a caretaker’s caravan to ensure Red Dog is safe from being shot conveys a sense of community as they unite for a common cause. Stenders uses costuming to promote the landscape as a source of opportunity of new and meaningful relationships. While the mismatched hard hats and clothing remind viewers that the miners come from different places, the dust which covers all of them celebrates the strong bond that the hardships and experiences of mining in Western Australia has forged. A low angle shot of the Red Dog statue being unveiled in Dampier, and then an immediate cut to the crowd cheering highlights the sense of community that has formed amongst the miners and their connection to the land. Thus Red Dog represents the land as a source of opportunity for individuals.

In For New England, Wright represents how individuals’ transition through landscapes landscapes forms the basis of their identity; as the physicality of the landscape changes and moulds their sense of self. The physicality of her British heritage is captured in the references to foreign plants in “house closed in with sycamore and chestnut”, conveying images of a tamed landscape. This quality is drawn from the alliteration and the sibilance of the line, which creates a sense of order and tranquility. The transition, and the momentary alienation felt by the persona as she is placed into a wild and unfamiliar landscape, is capture through the metaphor of having, “planted the island… and drew it around her.” The imagery induces the responder to acknowledge how our identities are shaped by the intimacy of the land, and that the persona has drawn around her a sanctuary of the familiar. As such, a successful transition into a new landscape is intrinsic in embodying the land’s qualities within oneself. This is demonstrated through dichotomies such as, “the swimmer and the mountain river/… am the gazer and the land”, in which the actor, metaphorically becomes the very landscape itself. This conjunction of activity and identity foregrounds the way in which the land carves it’s qualities into the identity of the individual. Therefore, the persona expresses how both the memory of her old English home, “nostalgic flames of laburnum” as as well as the “dogwood” of her new environs have “fused.” Together, these memories have become a common element of her identity, represented through the metaphor that both are able, “to touch alight these sapless memories.” Therefore we are able to perceive the metaphysical qualities of how text has explored people and landscapes.

Red Dog highlights how individuals forge connection to landscapes through the memories they create there. When Red Dog’s owner, John, dies, it begins a journey to search for him. A montage of the miners working in the harsh Western Australian landscape from Red Dog’s point of view as a diegetic voiceover repeats “Have you seen John?” highlights Red Dog’s yearning for his owner. An edit to a map shows the great distances that Red Dog travels, reflecting his yearning for his owner. Long shots of the desolate landscape convey its beauty as well as the solitude, an embodiment of the culture shock that the displaced miners have faced. Ultimately, Red Dog returns home, cuts between a close-up of his face and the terrain of Dampier highlighting the strong bond it feels with the area.  This represents that home is not just a physical place, but is also determined by the people who inhabit that landscape. Red Dog symbolically dies in front of John’s grave, and a zooming out shot of the miners as they mourn over his death, a cemetery in the foreground and with sombre non-diegetic music playing, underscores the important role memories have played in establishing Red Dog’s connection to the land. Thus Red Dog conveys the significance of memories in creating a link between individuals and landscapes.


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