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The Year of Living Dangerously is a 1982 Peter Weir film adapted from the novel of the same name by its author Christopher Koch, Weir, and David Williamson. The story is about a love affair set in Indonesiamarker during the overthrow of President Sukarno. It follows a group of foreign correspondents in Jakartamarker on the eve of an attempted coup by the so-called 30 September Movement on 30 September 1965 and during the beginning of the violent reprisals by military-led vigilante groups who killed hundreds of thousands.

The film stars Mel Gibson as Guy Hamilton, an Australian journalist, and Sigourney Weaver as Jill Bryant, a British Embassy officer. It also stars Linda Hunt as the male dwarf Billy Kwan, Gibson's local photographer contact, a role for which Hunt won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film was shot in both Australia and the Philippinesmarker and includes Australian actors Bill Kerr as Colonel Henderson and Noel Ferrier as Wally O'Sullivan.

It was banned from being shown in Indonesia until 1999. The title The Year of Living Dangerously is a quote which refers to a famous Italian phrase used by Sukarno; vivere pericoloso, meaning "living dangerously". Sukarno borrowed the line for the title of his Indonesian Independence Day speech of 1964.

The film was entered into the 1983 Cannes Film Festival.


Guy Hamilton, a neophyte foreign correspondent for an Australian network, arrives in Jakarta on assignment. He meets the close-knit members of the foreign correspondent community including journalists from the UK, the US and New Zealandmarker, diplomatic personnel, and a Chinese-Australian dwarf of high intelligence and moral seriousness, Billy Kwan. Hamilton is initially unsuccessful because his predecessor, tired of life in Indonesia, had departed without introducing Hamilton to his contacts. Guy receives limited sympathy from the journalist community, which competes for scraps of information from Sukarno's government, the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), and the conservative Muslim military. However, Kwan takes a liking to Hamilton and gives him interviews.

Kwan introduces Hamilton to Jill Bryant, a beautiful young assistant at the British embassy. Kwan and Bryant are close friends, and he subtly manipulates her encounters with Hamilton. After resisting Hamilton because she's returning to the UK, Bryant falls in love with an equally smitten Guy. This scandalous news is subsequently all over the foreigners' community. Discovering that the Communist Chinesemarker are arming the PKI, Bryant passes this information to Hamilton to save his life, but he wants to cover the Communist rebellion that will occur when the arms shipment reaches Jakarta. Shocked, Kwan and Bryant withdraw their friendship from Hamilton, and he is left with the American journalist Pete Curtis, and his own assistant and driver Kumar, who is secretly PKI.

Kumar quietly shanghais Hamilton to keep him from harm and protect the information. Upon returning to Jakarta, Guy plumbs the depths with Curtis but then realizes his folly. Kwan, outraged by Sukarno's failure to meet the needs of most Indonesians, decides to hang an illegal sign from the Western hotel but is thrown from the window by security men, and dies in Hamilton's arms. His death is also witnessed by Jill. Still in search of "the big story", Hamilton visits the Presidential palace after the Muslim generals have taken over and unleashed executions, after they learned of the Communist shipment. Struck down by an Army officer, Hamilton sufferes a deatached retina.

Resting alone in Kwan's bungalow, Hamilton recalls a passage from the Bhagavad Gita ("all is clouded by desire") which Billy told him. Kumar visits him and tells him about the failed coup attempt. Risking permanent damage to his eye, Hamilton implores Kumar to drive him to the airport, where he boards the last plane out of Jakarta and is reunited with Bryant.



As a sprawling epic backed by MGM with a $6 million budget, The Year of Living Dangerously was by far the most ambitious Australian film undertaken to date and was the first co-production of Australia and a Hollywood studio. Although originally set to be filmed in Jakartamarker, permission to film in Indonesiamarker was denied, so the bulk of the movie was filmed in the Philippinesmarker. Death threats against Peter Weir and Mel Gibson from Muslims who believed the film would be anti-Islam forced the production to move to Australia. Gibson downplayed the death threats, saying, "It wasn't really that bad. We got a lot of death threats to be sure, but I just assumed that when there are so many, it must mean nothing is really going to happen. I mean, if they meant to kill us, why send a note?"

Mel Gibson described his character Guy, saying, “He's not a silver-tongued devil. He's kind of immature and he has some rough edges and I guess you could say the same for me.”

The title music for the film is L'Enfant by Vangelis, which is also featured on his album Opera Sauvage.


The Year of Living Dangerously was entered into the 1983 Cannes Film Festival where it was well-received by audiences and critics.

Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and praised Linda Hunt's performance: "Billy Kwan is played, astonishingly, by a woman -- Linda Hunt, a New York stage actress who enters the role so fully that it never occurs to us that she is not a man. This is what great acting is, a magical transformation of one person into another". In his review for The New York Times, Vincent Canby praised Mel Gibson's performance: "If this film doesn't make an international star of Mr. Gibson (Gallipoli, The Road Warrior), then nothing will. He possesses both the necessary talent and the screen presence". However, Time magazine's Richard Corliss wrote, "But in his attempt to blend his preoccupations with the plot of C. J. Koch's 1978 novel, Weir has perhaps packed too much imagery and information into his movie ... The plot becomes landlocked in true-life implausibilities; the characters rarely get a hold on the moviegoer's heart or lapels". In his review for the Washington Post, Gary Arnold described the film as "grievously flawed yet compelling tale of political intrigue, certainly a triumph of atmosphere if not of coherent dramatization". Newsweek magazine called the film "an annoying failure because it fritters away so many rich opportunities".

Actress Linda Hunt won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.


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