Episode #17 Jonathan Rayner on the Mad Max Films

This is a threshold moment, Johnny.

Mad Max: Fury Road, the fourth instalment in the Mad Max franchise

The Mad Max world teeters on the edge of reason and on the edge of existence. It is difficult to think of a more highly-charged and high-octane film franchise that has reached a mass global audience. The four iconic films are among the most recognisable and influential movies of the past few decades. Writer on Australian cinema, Jonathan Rayner, explains what is special about these films, how they came to be, and what they have come to mean both at home and across the world.

He describes the endless desert roads of Mad Max, a place where violence awaits and where, perhaps, the sublime is to be glimpsed. The first Mad Max film came out 40 years ago, born of an Australian film policy that was looking for indigenous and authentically Australian stories and content.

Did they get what they were looking for? Did they even know what they were looking for?

French poster for the first Mad Max film (1979)

The weird mashup of science fiction and Hollywood westerns, TV cop shows and punk aesthetics established a look and feel for dystopian futures that are still to be found in film today. The 40-year progress of the franchise also provide a revealing lens through which to observe important trends in the recent history of cinema.

 This is the first of several film-themed podcast episodes from us at Field Day. In the next couple of months, you can look forward to a critique of Irish state policy in relation to film, a history of Irish newsreels, and a preview of a documentary on the Satanic Panic that visited the streets of Belfast in the early 1970s.

Jonathan Rayner is Reader in Film Studies at the University of Sheffield. He is the author of an authoritative history of Australian cinema, Contemporary Australian Cinema (2000), and of books on the directors Michael Mann and of Peter Weir. He is also an authority on naval war film, while his recent focus has been on landscape in film.

This interview was recorded during the International Conference on Landscape and Cinema, held in the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Lisbon. The conference was hosted by the Centre for Comparative Studies.

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