Where the Green Ants Dream (Wo die grünen Ameisen träumen) (1984)

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Released 4-Aug-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Director and Producer
Featurette-Atomic Footprints
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1984
Running Time 96:34
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (58:37) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Werner Herzog
Umbrella Entertainment
Starring Bruce Spence
Wandjuk Marika
Roy Marika
Ray Barrett
Norman Kaye
Ralph Cotterill
Nick Lathouris
Basil Clarke
Ray Marshall
Dhungala I. Makika
Gary Williams
Tony Llewellyn-Jones
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Wandjuk Marika

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
German Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 mono (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Audio Commentary Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Acclaimed German director Werner Herzog followed his barmy opus Fitzcarraldo with this little known 10BA film (makes you appreciate why Germany would start their own equivalent scheme a decade or so later). Though it is all but forgotten today, ardent film fans/cinematic trainspotters can finally rejoice that another piece in the puzzle that is Herzog can be found (though there are certainly a few more in hiding). Everyone else should probably go and watch Fitzcarraldo or Aguirre, the Wrath of God instead, as there is no doubt on any level that this is a lesser film by the auteur.

    Where The Green Ants Dream is a fictionalised, and grossly simplified, retelling of the Gove land rights case in the late 1960s to early 1970s, albeit one so far removed from actual history that it generally tries to avoid direct comparison (though such is inevitable, and certainly done at length on the director's own commentary). Way out in the outback, a mineral explorer (Bruce Spence) has located a cache of Uranium and his mining company are about to start digging it out. Aboriginal people from far and wide come to protest the operation because it is "where the green ants dream" - an important cultural place for Aboriginal people. The dispute heads to court. Bruce Spence gains a deep spiritual understanding of the Aboriginal peoples relationship to the land. Some of the Aboriginals get consumed with greed. The mining company remains evil.

    Perhaps that summary sounds a little dismissive, but rightly so. Where The Green Ants Dream fails to tell a particularly engaging story because its exposition is absurdly simplistic and every character flat and two dimensional. The filmmakers are clearly telling a story they know little about and, consequently, expecting plot devices that are no more than dictionary definitions of aboriginal culture to resonate with audiences. These overly simplified depictions would struggle to engage any audience, but their shallow, and occasionally misleading, message is likely to go once step further and actively irritate an Australian audience as most Australians will have learnt a better understanding of Aboriginal culture and the principles behind land rights in primary school (what's worse is when they try to explain "genuine" science behind the dream-time myths...). Furthermore, when compared to the history that it is based upon, a lot of silly (not to mention pointless) changes have been made to increase the shock value of the concepts in the film - e.g. instead of boring old Bauxite, as was the case at the Gove Peninsula, the miners are looking for Uranium (insert shock and environmental paranoia here).

    There are some things that work for the movie. It is reasonably scenic and the acting is generally pretty good, especially considering that many of the Aboriginal actors had never acted before. The style of the film is certainly Herzog's. Unfortunately there isn't nearly enough positive things to save the film overall.

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Transfer Quality


    The film is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, slightly fuller than its theatrical 1.85:1 aspect, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The video looks reasonable, but could have used further cleanup. The image is slightly soft and a slightly washed out. Blacks look more like a dark grey than a true black, and skin tones are similarly lighter than they should be. There is a decent level of detail in the dark area, however, and the colours are fairly even. There is no real sign of grain of low-level noise in the image.

    There is no sign of compression artefacts in the video. Telecine wobble is evident throughout the film, though it varies in severity quite significantly (e.g. it is quite noticeable at the 68 minute mark, but almost unnoticeable at the 71 minute mark). Some artefacts are present throughout the feature, including a number of large blobs as well as smaller flecks of dust and the like.

    No subtitles are present for the feature.

    This is a RSDL disc. The layer break occurs at 58:37 but was not noticeable on my equipment.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    A single English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 Kbps) audio track is present for the film. The track sounds distinctly mono, which would be true to the original soundtrack given the time of production.

    The audio is quite soft and features a noticeable, though relatively mild, hum and white noise in the background. Dialogue is generally easy to understand and appears to be well synchronised to the video.

    The film features music by Wandjuk Marika that incorporates a lot of traditional Aboriginal percussion, which fits the film well.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Audio Commentary with Werner Herzog and Lucki Stipetic

    Guided by his long-time producer Lucki Stipetic, Herzog phones in a somewhat half-hearted commentary in German with English subtitles. It certainly has a few interesting points, such as how he became interested in the Gove Peninsula case (although he doesn't recall the name or many of the details), but is quite patchy and filled with an uncomfortable level of silence (although the commentary is recorded over a German dub and when Herzog isn't talking you can giggle at the stern German voice coming from Bruce Spence's lips).

Atomic Footprints Featurette (14:29)

    An out-of-place anti-nuclear rant. Besides being a questionable inclusion given the tenuous link to the film, this is a disgracefully imbalanced piece of propaganda filled with ill-explained, significantly out of date, shock statistics and a hearty dose of good old fashioned paranoia. An embarrassing inclusion for both its content itself and its relevance to the feature.

Theatrical Trailer (2:48)

    A poorly cut, clumsy trailer from the early 1980s, back in the day when they would just chop all kinds of disjointed bits of the film together in the hope one of them would stick with viewers. A worthwhile historic artefact.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This Region 4 disc appears to be the only English language edition of Where The Green Ants Dream available.


    A clumsily told story about an Australian native title dispute. Worth a look for Herzog fans, provided the go in with modest expectations, but a general audience is unlikely to find much value here.

    The video is fair, but appears to be taken from a dirty print. The audio is mediocre - clear but it contains noticeable background hum and noise. The extras are not worth the effort.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
Display Samsung 116cm LA46M81BD. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, 100W centre and 4 surround/rear speakers, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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