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Film / The Year of Living Dangerously

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1982 film by Australian director Peter Weir, starring Mel Gibson, Linda Hunt, and Sigourney Weaver. The film is based on the 1978 novel of the same name by C.J. Koch. This was one of the first film co-productions between the U.S. and Australia, as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer funded the entire production after the South Australian Film Corporation backed out out its involvement.

Set in 1965 Indonesia, it tells the story of a romance between an ambitious Australian reporter and a beautiful, sophisticated British diplomat at a time of unrest and revolution. Linda Hunt gives an amazing, gender-bending performance as half-Australian, half-Chinese dwarf photographer Billy Kwan.


This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: The movie removes the narrator from the books; the Australian journalist Cookie; Hamiltons's Longing for his missing British Father and Hamilton's encounter with Soviet Intelligence.
  • Air Voyance: Averted as Guy manages to get on Jill's plane at the last possible second.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Guy seems drawn to his career at the risk of hurting his lover and close friends. He goes so far as to use confidential information - that Jill has brought to him in hopes of keeping him safe - to break a big story. He doesn't hesitate to do so, even as Jill looks on, horrified.
  • Arc Words: The biblical (and Tolstoy) quote "What then must we do?" is used by Billy throughout the film.
  • Asian Hooker Stereotype: Guy and Pete are ambushed by an army of them at the cemetery.
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  • Auto Erotica: Guy and Jill don't actually have sex in the car (that we know of) but they are overwhelmed with passion while smashing through barricades during the drive to Billy's bungalow for their first sexual encounter.
  • Break-Up/Make-Up Scenario: Guy and Jill.
  • The Chessmaster: Billy, although he is generally on the side of good. He manipulates Guy and Jill's romance to a disturbing degree. To drive the point home, in the beginning of the film, Billy shows Guy actual puppets whose characteristics resemble Guy, Jill, and Billy.
  • The Coup: Attempted by the PKI, thwarted by Suharto, who then stole power from Sukarno. This is all explained by Kumar after Guy's eye is hurt.
  • Cross-Cast Role: Billy Kwan the male dwarf is played by American actress Linda Hunt (who won an Oscar for the role).
  • Depraved Homosexual: Wally O'Sullivan. We just see hints of this, but Billy calls him out in front of the other reporters near the end of the film.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Billy dies in Guy's arms after being pushed from the hotel window.
  • Dreaming the Truth: Guy realizes that Kumar is a Communist after he has a nightmare in which one of Kumar's acquaintances, a Femme Fatale, tries to drown him in a swimming pool.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: And how.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: Colonel Henderson plays the bagpipes at British embassy functions and even late night embassy attacks- "It keeps the morale up."
  • Far East Asian Terrorists: The PKI.
  • Fictional Counterpart: Guy works for ABS News, a counterpart for ABC News. (This might have been avoid confusion with the U.S. ABC.)
  • Foreign Correspondent: Most of the main characters.
  • Foreshadowing: Billy tells Guy in the beginning of the film that "I'll be your eyes" when describing how he will photograph and film Guy's written prose. Near the end, the day after Billy's death, Guy is literally struck in the eye when pursuing a dangerous story and suffers a detached retina.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Guy and Jill.
  • Historical Domain Character: Indonesian President Sukarno appears briefly, playing a critical role in Billy's death.
  • Intrepid Reporter Guy Hamilton.
  • Inspirational Martyr: Billy dies trying to get President Sukarno to see a banner he has hung outside his hotel room begging Sukarno to feed his people.
  • Jerkass: The other reporters, mostly.
  • Morality Pet: Billy is this to the other westerners in the film.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Guy punches the other reporters when they tease him about his night with Jill, leading to the line by Wally, voiced quietly to the other reporters, "Looks like our boy's in love."
  • Narrator: Billy, whose tone is quite god-like as he reads what are presumed to be his file entries on the other characters.
  • Obi-Wan Moment: Billy in the hotel room after he has hung the banner, calmly waiting for the police.
  • The Peeping Tom: Billy is constantly spying on and photographing Guy and Jill's romance, although we never see him photograph anything particularly juicy.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Billy tells off the corrupt, self-absorbed, sexually exploitative Western reporters before going to the hotel to confront Sukarno and meet his fate.
  • Scenery Porn: Guy and Kumar's drive through the Indonesian countryside.
  • Spiritual Successor: A Dangerous Life, which in setting, plot elements, and very title, is very similar—it's about a Western journalist in another Southeast Asian authoritarian state at a pivotal moment: in this case, an American reporter in Manila, the Philippines, during the last years of Martial Law and the People Power Revolution in 1986.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Billy's foster son in Jakarta lives a life of poverty and dies of disease, Billy arrives at his friend's house during the heart-breaking funeral scene.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Billy gives Guy this speech when he learns of Guy's plan to betray Jill's confidence.
  • Wretched Hive: Most of Jakarta is starving and filled with corruption.


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