Tag Archives: Arts 2062 – Concept Analysis

Concept analysis – National Identity in Cloudstreet

Production year: 2011

Runtime: 3 part mini-series

Directors: Justin Kurzel

Cast: Stephen Curry, Emma Booth, Kerry Fox and Geoff Morrell

Cloudstreet, a novel by renknowned Australian author Tim Winton was published in 1991 and became a cult hit which reflected nostalgia for the Australian identity before Americanisation. The novel was adapted as a three-part mini series and released in 2011 on the small screen. Winton himself was a co-screenwriter helping to bring the novel to life along with the director Matthew Saville (Noise, The Secret Life of Us and episodes of The Slap).

Cloudstreet is a gripping mix of family saga’s and secrets with a mystical edge. It follows the lives of two Australian families, the Pickles and the Lambs who are like chalk and cheese, yet come to live together over a period of twenty years, 1943 – 1963 at One Cloud Street. As a novel it reflects a distinct social climate of values and interests felt by Australians during the 90’s, right after a period of ‘recession we had to have, that Keating period where people started to feel slightly differently about their country and the prospects for their future’. [1] National Identity is a strong theme in the book with concerns of Australian regionalism, nationalism and internationalism and a fascination with Australian traditions and their place in the modern world.

Cloudstreet is set in urban Perth on the cusp of modernization, however for these two families it is as if the modern world does not exist. The plot ‘enfolds the regional in the national, the traditional in the modern…the extraordinary within the ordinary…the metaphysical into the physical and the everyday’.[2] There’s a house that seems to have its own life, boats which fly and a talking pig, amongst other supernatural elements. It’s the weird and wonderful combination of the social and spiritual, which lends itself well to filmic portrayal, and creates this sense of nostalgia that Winton has running through his novel for ‘a nostalgia for lost places, for an Australian accent and culture that are pre-American, pre-modern, pre-1960s’.[3] A noble Australia which some might wish we always could be, especially older generations.

These qualities find expression in the mini-series through the rich registration of Australian idioms of the 1940s and 1950s, and in the beautiful depiction of places and landscapes in and around Perth. It also focuses on a sense of community, family and connections in a time of great upheaval, which relates back to characteristics many feel shape the Australian national identity like mate-ship. In it’s great attention to the movements in time, history and memory, a vision of an Australian National Identity is created for the viewer through a depiction, which posits our modern society against this absent, old-Australia. We have changed, grown, our modern world is very different to that of earlier generations, typically we construct the Australian identity through binary opposition of what we are not in relation to other nations, in Cloudstreet it is through reflecting our own now absent nation self.

Fox says: ‘It’s very significant for Australia and if you try to work out what it is about the piece [Cloudstreet] that makes it so extraordinary and moving, I think it has a naivety to it because [Winton] was so young when he wrote it. It has this weird truthfulness and observations without sophistication and trickery.’[4] It opens a window onto contemplation of an Australia many of us will never know. Winton reveals his own thoughts on the reason for this ‘I was re-imagining it…the city of your parents, the city of your grandparents…thinking about the destruction of community, the destruction of neighborhoods…the loss of the corner shop, all the kinds of things that people get nostalgic about for good reason…Plus I was documenting all the verbal history and the nonsense and the tall stories I’d grown up with…listening to all these people talking in accents and inflections that had become pressed out of reality, out of existence by the Americanisation of our culture’.[5]

These thoughts reveal another aspect of the Australian National Identity in Cloudstreet, the fact that we have always come under the influence of other nations, before our country created strong ties with America, it was strongly influenced by Britain, surely it is naïve to think the nostalgia for a lost Australia is for a pure Australian national identity as this does not exist because of the nature of our country’s history and founding.

Cloudstreet is a mystic and beautiful depiction of an older era in Australia when our National Identity was influenced by the Anglo-Celtic imprint, and shows nostalgia for these older times.


[1] Michael Bodey: Cloudstreet: Australia’s best-loved novel arrives on the small screen, From: The Australian May 21, 2011 12:00AM. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/cloudstreet-australias-best-loved-novel-arrives-on-the-small-screen/story-e6frg8n6-1226057281445

[2] Robert Dixon: Tim Winton, Cloudstreet and the field of Australian Literature, Westerly 2005, Volume 50, November, Pages 240-260.

[3] Robert Dixon: Tim Winton, Cloudstreet and the field of Australian Literature, Westerly 2005, Volume 50, November, Pages 240-260.

[4] Michael Bodey: Cloudstreet: Australia’s best-loved novel arrives on the small screen, From: The Australian May 21, 2011 12:00AM. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/cloudstreet-australias-best-loved-novel-arrives-on-the-small-screen/story-e6frg8n6-1226057281445

[5] Robert Dixon: Tim Winton, Cloudstreet and the field of Australian Literature, Westerly 2005, Volume 50, November, Pages 240-260.

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