"An illuminating and perceptive introduction to the films of a key New Zealand filmmaker"
(James Chapman, University of Leicester)
With his films Wild Man (1977), Goodbye Pork Pie (1980) and Utu (1983),
Geoff Murphy occupied a pivotal position in the New Zealand film new
wave. Against the backdrop of a previously fragmented film industry,
the iconoclasm and attendant success of Murphy's films distinguished
the director and his work as both commercially successful and
nationally specific, in their examination of New Zealand masculinity
The impact of these early films led
Murphy, along with several other contemporary filmmakers from New
Zealand and Australia, to pursue a career in the American film industry
from the end of the 1980s onwards. While Murphy's American films - Young Guns II (1990), Freejack (1992), and Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995)
- continue to embody elements of the visual style which characterised
his early work, it is the New Zealand films which distinguish him as a
director of national and critical significance.
films address key issues of male identity and national character, and
present a distinctive Kiwi (and Murphy) trait of anti-authoritarianism.
While the representation of male-to-female relationships is
underdeveloped in New Zealand film in general, Murphy's films
problematise the male-to-male relationships which are usually seen as
superior substitutes. Similarly, where violence is seen as a pervasive
and inevitable feature of human relationships played out against the
New Zealand landscape, the characters in Murphy's films resist
temptation, use force in the last resort, and retreat from its
repetition. As such, Murphy's films stand as examples but also
extensions of the national cinema, and additionally represent a
personal, if culturally determined, articulation of aspects of
nationality and identity.
This book is the first
critical study of Geoff Murphy's films and focuses on questions of
masculinity, nationality and identity. The theme of the 'Man Alone' is
explored in detail across the New Zealand films Goodbye Pork Pie, Utu and The Quiet Earth (1985), and Murphy's American films Young Guns II, Freejack and Blindside (1993),
which are termed here a 'Mid-Atlantic' Cinema. The publication contains
a comprehensive filmography, that also includes information on Murphy's
short films and television movies, and an extensive bibliography.