Sam Neill Remembers Fallen Family in Why Anzac

In one pivotal scene from Sam Neill’s thoughtful and moving examination of the Anzac legend, the ABC documentary Why Anzac, he approaches his grandfather’s grave in Lijssenthoek Cemetery, Belgium for the first time.

“This is an emotional moment for me,” confesses Neill as he walks among the endless rows of headstones, all identical in size, shape and colour. “I’ve never been here before. I’m finding this pretty distressing.”

Finally, he locates his grandfather’s grave and hunkers down to examine the words requested by his grandmother, Ella.

“So he passed over and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side,” reads the inscription.

But Neill, the veteran actor, flubs the line, choking with emotion at the thought of a life cruelly cut short and a young wife and two children left behind in England. It is one of a number of unscripted moments in the documentary that give it an endearingly personal air.

The scene in the graveyard is typical of Neill’s approach – deftly weaving together his family’s story with an intelligent discussion of the wider implications and significance of the Anzac legend, and how it is co-opted by different interests.

“Everyone understands something about family because we are all part of a family of some kind,” he says. “And every family in Australia and New Zealand probably universally has been directly or indirectly affected by war.”

Original article by Nick Galvin, The Sydney Morning Herald, April 17, 2015.

Tags: Lijssenthoek Cemetery  Sam Neill  Sydney Morning Herald (The)  Why Anzac  

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