The Year of Living Dangerously

The Year of Living Dangerously is a film based on the novel by Christopher Koch. This story portrays the life of a young and inexperienced field reporter from Australia whose first assignment is to the “dull” island of Indonesia. Guy Hamilton is very disillusioned about being assigned to a country that has nothing going on at a time when the entire world’s focus seemed to be on French Indochina. Yet he soon discovers that Indonesia, and especially Jakarta, is everything but dull. He finds himself soon to be caught in the midst of a civil war in which the popular Communist party is trying to upheave the weak government supported by the western powers like America, England and Australia. Because of the unpopularity of these nations in Indonesia, Hamilton has a hard time finding a story until diminutive Billy Kwan becomes his assistant around all of Jakarta. It’s Billy who introduces Guy to Jill Bryant, an interesting woman who happens to work at the English Embassy and becomes the source of the story of a lifetime.

This movie was definitely an interesting story. I often find myself disinterested in movies that are older than myself but I have to admit that I found it hard to blink during the course of this movie. I was totally engrossed not only by the drama of the story, but mostly by the fact that the plot seemed to be set in a time that truly was one of the most dangerous in the history of the world. The cold war made Southeast Asia a focal point in the lives of most democratic westerners. I also found it very interesting that Billy would tell Guy that to truly know Jakartians, you needed to understand their puppets. Understand their art to understand their culture. I find this is true for any culture. And I think the director, Peter Weir, did a great job portraying Hamilton as a man who understood that understanding a persons culture was far more important than sitting back and judging it without a clue. I believe this movie is a classic that all should see and am truly glad I was able to.