In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Peter Weir

  • Introduction
  • Books on Peter Weir
  • Published Screenplays
  • Interviews with Peter Weir
  • Select Books with Significant References to Peter Weir
  • General Essays on Peter Weir
  • Music in Peter Weir’s Films

Cinema and Media Studies Peter Weir
Marek Haltof
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0256


Peter Weir’s name is usually inseparable from the Australian film renaissance of the 1970s. His second feature film, Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), was a turning point in the development of the new cinema in Australia, as well as in establishing Weir’s international reputation. He emerged as an auteur whose personal stamp characterized his early films. Weir was born in Sydney in 1944. In 1965, following the footsteps of many other young Australians, he visited Europe. After his return in 1967, he started producing amateur revues and first short films for television Channel Seven in Sydney. In 1969, he joined the Australian Commonwealth Film Unit (ACFU), a major training-ground for aspiring filmmakers before the establishment of the Australian Film and Television School in 1973. In 1970, Weir directed the filmic novella Michael for an important three-part ACFU production, Three to Go. It was followed by the equally successful medium-length Homesdale (1971) and several documentaries such as Incredible Floridas (1972) and Whatever Happened to Green Valley (1973). In 1974, he directed his first feature film, the black comedy The Cars That Ate Paris. His career was enabled by the stimulating atmosphere of the early seventies in Australia. Several important political decisions made at that time greatly influenced the future shape of the local film industry: the establishment of the Australian Film Development Corporation (in 1975 to become the Australian Film Commission, AFC), the Experimental Film and Television Fund, and the founding of the Australian Film and Television School in Sydney. Together with the state governments, the federal government began investing in film and promoting “culturally worthwhile” films, giving Australia not only recognition but also a sense of cultural distinctiveness. Weir’s next films, Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975), The Last Wave (1977), and Gallipoli (1981), belong to this group. Beginning with The Year of Living Dangerously (1982), Weir’s films were made with American backing and featured American settings and topics. Witness (1985) became his first American film and also his major box-office and critical success. He solidified his international reputation with Dead Poets Society (1989), The Truman Show (1998), and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003). Although some of Weir’s films made in Hollywood share stylistic and thematic interests with his earlier works, they are usually discussed as more dramatically controlled and compact.

Books on Peter Weir

Since the publication of Shiach 1993, Weir’s films have received a lot of critical attention, not only in the English language. Scholars usually focus on dreamlike dimensions of Weir’s films as well as on his ability to create an unsettling atmosphere, as in Bliss 2000, and mysticism, as in Leonard 2009. Formica 2012 discusses Weir’s transition to Hollywood, Rayner 2006 focuses on his use of cinematic conventions, and Haltof 1996 deals with his thematic preoccupation with clash of cultures. Peeters 1983 offers a detailed bibliography of early works on Weir.

  • Bliss, Michael. Dreams within a Dream: The Films of Peter Weir. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000.

    Offers an insightful discussion of Weir’s cinema and focuses on the conflict between reason and mystery. In addition, Bliss deals with the issue of spirituality in Weir’s cinema while offering several references to Freud and Jung.

  • Formica, Serena. Peter Weir: A Creative Journey from Australia to Hollywood. Bristol, UK: Intellect, 2012.

    Focuses on Weir as a transnational filmmaker, on his transition from the Australian film industry to Hollywood. The book offers a close analysis of four films: Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Year of Living Dangerously, Witness, and The Truman Show. The concepts of authorship and transnationalism form a theoretical framework for the book’s analytical parts.

  • Haltof, Marek. Peter Weir: When Cultures Collide. New York: Twayne, 1996.

    Traces Weir’s journey from intensely Australian filmmaker to successful Hollywood director. The focus is on Weir’s thematic and visual interests, in particular the issue of culture clash and the dreamlike atmosphere permeating his films made before (and including) Fearless. The book contains a detailed filmography and bibliography.

  • Leonard, Richard. The Mystical Gaze of the Cinema: The Films of Peter Weir. Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press, 2009.

    Explores the theme of mysticism that permeates Weir’s cinema. Leonard argues that Weir creates a “mystical gaze” and analyzes that aspect of Weir’s cinema with references to select films, including Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Last Wave, and The Way Back.

  • Peeters, Theo. Peter Weir and His Films: A Critical Bibliography. Melbourne, Australia: Australian Film Institute Research and Information, 1983.

    An exhaustive listing of all printed material concerning the career of Weir before 1982.

  • Rayner, Jonathan. The Films of Peter Weir. 2d ed. London: Continuum, 2006.

    The revised and updated edition; first published in 1998. Rayner offers an in-depth look at Weir’s films and discusses his unique style resulting from a fusion of European art film style with Hollywood genre conventions.

  • Shiach, Don. The Films of Peter Weir: Visions of Alternative Realities. London: C. Letts, 1993.

    An informative chronological discussion of Weir’s films in the light of the auteur theory. The first book fully devoted to Weir’s cinema.

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