Randwick Ritz, Sydney:

04:45PM, Friday
May 03

Lido Cinemas, Melbourne:

01:45PM, Friday
May 10

Rating: M
Duration:72 minutes
Country: Australia
Language: English, Tok Pisin
Cast: Bill Neave, Bill Neave Jr., Connie Neave
Director:  Peter Tammer



As vivid as any chronicle of war you will ever see. The film records a soliloquy that evokes the past with a clarity rarely evoked in any autobiography or novel.” - Phillip Adams

So compelling one accepts long passages of monologue as if they were action packed depictions. From this harrowing confessional emerges one more example of war’s essential obscenity.” – Keith Connolly, The Herald

Once seen, never forgotten. Forty years after World War II, veteran Bill Neave recounts his wartime experiences in Papua New Guinea, after escaping from the Japanese in Rabaul, East New Britain. As he speaks to the camera, the events are as vivid and alive to him as they were decades ago. He discusses his experiences with his dead friends: the murders, the horror, the brutality and the torture. Peter Tammer’s documentary masterpiece trivializes any questions about documentary authenticity or the border lines between truth and fiction by transcending them all. One of the greatest documentaries made in this country, it asks: “a soldier is trained to kill, but not to commit murder. But who can draw the line?”  Restored by Peter Tammer in 4K using Topaz Video AI, funded entirely by the filmmaker.

Introduced by Philip Brophy at Ritz Cinemas and Bill Mousoulis at Lido Cinemas.

Peter Tammer…his masterpiece is Journey to the End of Night (1982), in which an Army man re-enacts – in a ghostly, play-acting fashion, as if in a trance – his extreme experiences of violence directed at Japanese soldiers.” – Adrian Martin

Draws the spectator into a hallucinatory psychodrama.” – Ghent Film Festival

By collapsing past and present, Tammer has created a remarkable sense of forty years of one man’s life.” Brian McFarlane, Cinema Papers

A powerful portrait of a damaged man.” – Glenn Dunks, The Guardian

By Geoff Gardner
Peter Tammer was born in Melbourne in 1943. From an early age he made films. He worked at Eltham Films, the Commonwealth Film Unit, and also produced some extremely low-budget commercials. During the 1960s and 1970s he made a number of short films that ranged across documentaries, narratives and experimental work. He also collaborated on two low-budget independent films with Garry Patterson, Here's to You Mr. Robinson and How Willingly You Sing, and another with Monique Schwarz.

In the early ‘70s Peter was a founding member of the Melbourne Filmmakers’ Co-op and between 1973 and 1975 he was employed as a tutor in a film course for teacher training at Melbourne State College, Carlton.

In 1977 he was approached by Brian Robinson to take on part-time teaching at Swinburne Film and Television School. From 1979 to 1998 Peter was a Lecturer, and later Senior Lecturer in Film at Swinburne, which later merged into the Victorian College of the Arts.

Throughout his time as a teacher Peter continued producing very personal films, including, in 1982, Journey to the End of Night. The film had its premiere at the Melbourne Film Festival that year and received the TEN Award for Documentary Excellence. Among the key works in his filmography are Mallacoota Stampede (1981), which won the Erwin Rado Award for Best Australian Short Film at the 1981 Melbourne Film Festival, the experimental triptych My Belle, Hey Marcel and Queen of the Night (1983-85), Fear of the Dark (1985), Flausfilm (2009) and The Nude in the Window (2014). The Nude in the Window, subtitled How Paul Cox Became a Film-maker, was screened as part of Cinema Reborn’s inaugural season in 2018.

Peter continues to make films.
Back in 1982, Peter Tammer invited me to a private showing of his latest film. He wanted to screen it at the forthcoming Melbourne Film Festival. I watched Journey to the End of Night with an increasing sense of awe. For starters, it was so completely different to his previous film, Mallacoota Stampede, a tangled narrative of a group of mostly kids holidaying at the beach

I said back then that the new film represented a significant development in Australian documentary filmmaking, an opinion backed by Phillip Adams in The Bulletin, who described it as, ‘as vivid as any chronicle of war you'll ever see. The film records a soliloquy that evokes the past with a clarity rarely equalled in any autobiography or novel.’

In the film, Bill Neave, a World War 2 veteran, recounts his wartime experiences direct to the camera. Some forty years after the war, these are as vivid to him as they were when he lived through the violence,  brutality, death, torture and cold-blooded murder. Neave does a one-man re-enactment of them and, alone in his home, discusses them with his long-dead friends.

Back in the day all this was quite a shock. Documentaries rarely poked beneath such surfaces. And this film raised a whole host of questions, as the MFF catalogue said, ‘about the nature of documentation, memory and its effect on the present, the recreation of events and the border between fiction and truth.’

In a subsequent conversation published in the December 1982 edition of Cinema Papers, Peter and I talked about how he had chosen to tell Bill Neave’s story. I wondered about how much this was a performance for the camera and how much of it was recording a deeply felt experience. It is a film in which truth and reality and fiction and performance all come together to create a unique portrait.

One thing that does warrant comment is the film’s interspersing throughout of quotations and titles. I saw them as providing some commentary on Bill Neave’s state of mind. Peter saw them as much more:

‘They are meant to have multiple functions. The first level was to break up the story and to throw events into a separate relief. There are, as you know, two separate sets of quotes, from the Book of Job and from Céline’s Journey to the End of the Night, which was written after World War 1.

Now, that brings me to the second layer of intentions. Céline’s Journey and the Book of Job are about characters in the same style as Bill Neave, human beings who have been tested beyond the normal level of endurance. They are about their attempts to come to terms with it in different ways.

Now I see Job’s way, the biblical way, being essentially different from Bill’s. And Céline’s way is altogether different from both. But, then, all are similar at some level. They are all basically asking: ‘What is the purpose of existence? Why do I want to live? Why do I carry on through this shit, this vale of tears?’ They all come up with different answers. Bill’s answer is very religious because he believed that God was a personal God looking after him.

I don’t share that view. I am more inclined towards Céline’s atheism and his sense of everything in this world taking us through nightmares beyond comprehension. They have no meaning, no justification.

According to Céline, we are going through a terrible existence which is difficult for us to understand. But at least we can be honest about that and acknowledge it.

Someone like Bill takes the other approach and says, ‘I can’t understand it therefore it is bigger than me. It must have been ordained by God that it should come to pass but I can’t even really believe that.’ So, therefore, he is in despair. ‘How could I have been saved by God and then gone back and become a murderer?’ Céline says, ‘It’s normal, mate! It is just the way it is. Accept it!’

Biographical notes drawn from Bill Mousoulis’s website:

Notes on the film drawn from an interview with Peter Tammer published in Cinema Papers, December 1982.

All information presented with permission of the publishers.

Highly recommended further discussion: Adrian Martin’s recorded video introduction to the film:

Restored by Peter Tammer in 4k using Topaz Video Ai. Funded entirely by the film-maker.

A film by Peter Tammer produced with the assistance of Film Victoria.

The following credit information is included at the express request of Peter Tammer.

The main characters who appear in this film are Bill Neave,  Connie Neave, and Bill's eldest son Bill Neave Jr. This film originated with Ruben Mowsowski who made first contact with the central 'character' Bill Neave. Initially Ruben researched all background material for a prospective feature film before handing the project over to Peter Tammer. That transition came about after Ruben had been seriously injured in a car accident. Their mutual friend Garry Patterson was also involved in some of that original research. Bill Neave accepted the change of plan from Ruben's original idea for the film. Peter Tammer then made the film as a "one man band" except for one weekend when he was assisted by his friend Russell Hurley who sound recorded two important scenes.

Australia | 1982| 71 mins | 4K DCP | Colour | English | M

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