The theme of the clash of western vs. (other) culture continued for me on Sunday night when I watched The Year Of Living Dangerously on DVD. Why this movie? Well, because it turns out that my Dad knows the author, Christopher Koch. And (wait for this) Koch apparently admitted when it was pointed out to him that one of the major characters, the Chinese-Australian photographer Billy Kwan, is actually based on Dad, who was a journalist in the 60s, when the story is based.
Watching it was spooky. Billy’s habit of calling Mel Gibson’s character "old man", some of his quite philosophical lines, and when he talks about his Chinese-Australian lineage all sounded just like Dad.
Towards the end of the film, as Indonesia begun to erupt with violence, the realism got a little more real than I expected. Sirens wailed around me, louder than it seemed they should. I paused the movie. The sirens continued. I looked out the window. Two fire engines had pulled up across the street, the boys in black and fluorescent yellow jumping out to put out a fire in a skip.
It’s a bit of an obscure movie nowadays, though it starred Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver, and the actress (!) who played Billy won an Oscar for it. Still, well worth checking out, especially in the context of the ongoing clash of western culture with others, and a powerful dictator. Sure,the cover makes it look like a Mills & Boon novel, but don’t judge a DVD by its cover… check it out if you get the chance.