The Year of Living Dangerously (1983)


Director:  Peter Weir

Starring:  Mel Gibson (Guy Hamilton), Sigourney Weaver (Jill Bryant), Linda Hunt (Billy Kwan), Michael Murphy (Pete Curtis), Bill Kerr (Colonel Henderson), Noel Ferrier (Wally O'Sullivan),  Bembol Roco (Kumar), Paul Sonkkila (Kevin Condon), Ali Nur (Ali), Dominador Robridillo (Betjak Man), Joel Agona (Palace Guard), Mike Emperio (Sukarno), Bernardo Nacilla (Dwarf), Domingo Landicho (Hortono), Hermino De Guzman (Immigration Officer).

a journalist in 1965 Indonesia under Sukarno



Good movie.  Guy Hamilton (Mel Gibson) is a foreign correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Company sent to Indonesia to cover the actions of the ruler of Indonesia, Sukarno.   We get a behind-the-scenes look at the competition between newsmen for the hottest stories and interviews.  As the newcomer, Hamilton is at a distinct disadvantage, but male photographer Billy Kwan (Linda Hunt) take a liking to him and helps him get key interviews and stories.  The current situation in Indonesia was that Sukarno was shuffling between the Communist PKI and the right-wing generals, mostly Moslem. The problem facing Indonesia is a possible civil war between the two parties.

Hamilton starts falling in love with the wife of a diplomat, Jill Bryant (Sigourney Weaver) and, with some resistance, she returns his love.  She also works as an assistant to the British military attaché and in that position she has access to secret information.  Jill learns that the communists are going to receive a large shipment of arm from Shanghai, China.  She passes this information on to Guy because she wants him to get out of the country in order to keep him safe. 

The problem is: has success ruined Guy Hamilton?  He doesn't want to leave the country; he wants to report the story.  Billy warns him that this would put Jill's life in danger.  Billy starts to become disillusioned by Guy's overweening ambition.  Will Guy actually report the story and put at risk the life of the woman he loves? 

It was interesting watching a woman, Linda Hunt, play the part of a male photographer.  She did a great job; she won an Academy Award for the performance.  Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weave are also very good in their parts.   The movie catches the sense of menace in politically divided Indonesia and this keeps up the feeling of tension in the movie.


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

Historical Background:


1901  -- birth of Sukarno.

1945 (August 17)  --  Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta declare the independence of the Republic of Indonesia. 

1945-1967  --  Sukarno was the country's first President.

1950s  --   Sukarno increased his ties to China.  He also admitted more communists into the government.

During the later part of his presidency, Sukarno came to increasingly rely on the army and the support of the the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI).

1965 (September 30)  --  Sukarno supporters, fearing the rise of anti-communist factions, killed six top anti-communist generals and threw the bodies down a well.  The blame was then put on the PKI.  

Lieutenant General Suharto, commander of the strategic reserves, and the rest of the military, started a crackdown on the Communist Party. They encouraged people to kill anyone even suspected of being a communist sympathizer.

American diplomats had compiled lists of Indonesian "communist operatives" totaling about 5,000 people and turned this information over to the Indonesian military.

by 1966  --  about half a million Indonesians had been slaughtered. The ethnic Chinese were also targeted.

1966 (March 11)  --  Suharto and his supporters in the military forced Sukarno to yield all executive powers to Suharto. 

1967 (March 12)  --  Sukarno stripped of his presidential title by Indonesia's provisional parliament.  He was then placed under house arrest in Jakarta.

1970  --  still under house arrest, Sukarno died at age 69. 


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