Quite often the key to a film's success lies in the timing, and that is certainly something that Dead Heart possesses in spades. Based on the compelling and provocative 1992 stage play written by Nick Parsons, Dead Heart taps into the timely and heated ongoing debate concerning the complex and delicate issue of racism, integration and multi-culturalism in Australia. As with Peter Weir's The Last Wave, Dead Heart uses the background of a murder mystery to further explore this complex issue of Aboriginal culture and traditions and the inevitable clash that results when white Australians try to impose their own system of beliefs, values and history. .
The film is set in the small aboriginal community of Wala Wala, 600 km's south west of Alice Springs in remote outback Australia, where tough cop Ray Lorkin (Bryan Brown) tries to maintain some semblance of peace and harmony between two cultures that are essentially at odds with one another. Simmering racial tensions explode in the community when Tony (former Gladiators' host Aaron Pederson), a cocky young aboriginal labourer, seduces Katie (Angie Milliken), a teacher's wife, on a sacred aboriginal site. The elders of the tribe conspire to punish the pair according to ancient laws, and Lorkin is caught in the middle of an insoluble dilemma as he sets out to deliver justice while the local population heads for a potentially violent and ugly confrontation. .
Theatre veteran Parsons has made his feature film debut with this timely, provocative and extremely relevant drama, but his somewhat simplistic approach will probably offend many liberals yet cheer the less enlightened. The film explores many of the stereotypical images of indigenous people, as well as trying to present a fairly balanced view of the many problems that beset them, largely due to ignorance and arrogance. There is also some tacit criticism of the way in which white teachers and clergy try to impose their views and ideals over the top of centuries of tradition and tribal lore without thought towards the consequences.