Film as fairy tale; and, Never-never land

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Communications and Arts


Education and Arts

First Advisor

Dr George Karpathakis

Second Advisor

Keith Smith


From the earliest days of cinema, filmmakers have mined fairy tales and the messages they contain to provide an accessible visual iconography that observes the salty perils and sweet fortunes of everyday life as we live it. Fairy tales illustrate that becoming a human being is an art in itself, and cinema provides a way of understanding this art using a variety of different approaches and methods, dependent on the audience, the filmmakeras- storyteller’s intent, and the times in which the story is spun and shot. This exegesis is a companion to the creative component of my study, a feature length screenplay entitled Never-Never Land. Never-Never Land is a contemporary film fairy tale set in rural Australia that weaves European fairytale tropes into a story intimately connected with Australian landscape. In so doing, the film references the notion of the ‘Australian Gothic’ (Haltof, 1996, p.12), and the rich history of the film fairytale to date. As an explanation of my intellectual process and creative intent, this exegesis attempts to identify and analyse a number of approaches and methods in fairytale film, citing examples ranging from the cinema of Luis Buñuel, Walt Disney Studios, Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves (1984), to Jan Švankmajer, and the early films of Peter Weir. It also examines the way in which fairytales have maintained cultural currency by adapting to the medium of the times, evolving through oral and written traditions to arrive at cinema, dubbed by Sergei Eisenstein in 1949 as ‘a new epoch in the field of art’ (1977, p. 62). Through this study, and through the themes of the Never-Never Land screenplay, I propose that the most faithful film fairy tales, and those with the greatest cultural resonance, are those which successfully anchor the mysterious world of the fantastic to the identifiable realities of everyday life.

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