Writer Nevil Shute predicted the devastating impact of nuclear proliferation in one of the most widely read anti-war novels of the 20th century.
Screenplay: Lawrence Johnston
Producers: Peter Kaufmann, Lawrence Johnston
Photography: Katie Milwright
Editor: Bill Murphy
Sound: Peter Kaufmann, Livia Ruzic, Keith Thomas
Music: Antony Partos
Festivals: Melbourne 2013
Lawrence Johnston’s absorbing, multi-faceted consideration of Nevil Shute’s On the Beach looks at how the threat of nuclear annihilation once took hold in popular culture – and captures a formative moment in the boomer psyche. Shute’s 1957 novel depicts the last huddle of humanity preparing to die as a cloud of nuclear fallout drifts towards Australia. Shute, a British aeronautical engineer, worked in weapons development during World War II and moved to Australia in 1950. He wrote prolifically about the world he’d left behind and the new country he embraced (A Town Like Alice). His dread warning of apocalypse sold over four million copies. World leaders instructed each other to read it, and Hollywood liberal Stanley Kramer headed to Melbourne to make a star-studded film of it. Actress Donna Anderson, whose distressing scenes as a young mother are at the heart of the 1960 film and of Fallout too, is one of many thoughtful interview subjects who recollect the galvanising impact of a terror to which we have now become strangely inured.