DATE: 1973
PRODUCTION CO.: Apogee Films
CATEGORY: feature film
GENRE: experimental feature film
DURATION: 103 mins
FORMAT: 16mm colour film

DIRECTOR: Bert Deling
SRIPT: Bert Deling.
MUSIC: Spectrum

Peter Whittle (Pete Dalmas)
Max Gillies (Rojack)
Peter Cummings (Plastic Man)
John Duigan (documentarist)
Roger Ward (policeman)
The Tribe (commune members)

Experimental Film & Television Fund #A10054960

Soundtrack: EMI Harvest OCSD-7697, 1973
Dalmas (Theme) also released on the EMI Spectrum compilation LP
Ghosts: Post-Terminal Reflections [EME.1100] 1984


The first half of 'Dalmas' follows an ex-cop's passage through Melbourne’s drug scene in search of anarchistic acid dealer, 'Plastic Man', who he eventually tracks down to a seaside commune. As the scene shifts from city to country, the fictional framework of crime melodrama is taken over. Here, the camera reverses its gaze, becoming a documentary about the crew, the communal "tribe", and the shared experience of drugtaking and the filmmaking process.

Only the fist half of Dalmas is scripted. The second part of the film becomes an exercise in self-expression in which distinction between cast & crew is dissolved, leaving all free to contribute outside of normal directorial control. Part two is free of structured narrative. An eccentric study of the problems of capturing honest experience in film, and of attempting to create a cinema propelled by personal revelation -- an ultimately frustrating experience for those involved ,jarringly represented in a guttural screaming exhibition by one of The Tribe. Deling concedes, the problem lies in the nature of film... "a crude linear form (used) to convey a complex multilayered experience."

'Dalmas' conceives of narrative cinema in terms of its illusionistic processes, but uses reflexive devices in order to contrast the constructedness of the first half of the film against the more truthful personal expression of the second half, where participants are 'freed' from cinematic'roleplaying', both on and off screen.

A key work in independent Australian cinema of its time, this experimental feature was made on a collective basis primarily by members of the communal artistic performing group, The Tribe. Heavily influenced by alternative culture, the film impresses with its formal innovation.

"Change your perceptions and you change your life. Change enough lives & society falls, and that my friends is anarchy..."
-Plastic Man, Melbourne City Square, 1973.

Splodge Film Group, Melbourne

"An ex-cop pursues drug dealers to a hippy commune where the fiction becomes a documentary and the cast and crew discuss the film medium and their drug experiences."

General notes:

"...degenerates into a rambling and incoherent debate of extremely limited interest."
(Stratton 1980 p278).

"Popular on the drug-hazed cult circuit during the early 1970s.'
(Harrison 1994 p25)."


Australian reflexivity
Author: Joel Stern

"Have you seen Dalmas or Yackety Yack? Two fantastic examples of an experimental and innovative Australian cinema? Here is an obligitory back-of-the-video-style plot summary.

Dalmas ( Bert Deling 1973) is certainly a film of two halves. It opens with a quote from Fanon, 'The spectator is either a traitor or a coward', and proceeds into the story of ex-cop Pete Dalmas (Peter Whittle) and his pursuit of an elusive drug dealer, Mr. Big. An interrogation of fellow ex-cop, now junkie, Rojack (Max Gillies), leads Dalmas to Plastic Man, an anarchistic LSD revolutionary who runs a seaside commune filled with radicals, explorers and artists (played by a group known as Tribe). After a run in with some rather unfriendly policemen, Dalmas follows Plastic Man to the camp where a young documentrist (John Duigan) is making a film. At this point, the characters, the story, and the narrative structure all disintergrate. Dalmas the character becomes Peter Whittle the actor, and the production crew, with director Bert Deling, join the Tribe in a communal exploration of the film medium, drug taking and personal expression, without the medium of direction or scripting. The film ends with Deling and members of the cast and crew frankly assessing the success or otherwise of the techniques employed in the film, while stills of what we have just watched flash in the background. "


Dalmas & Yackety Yak
Author: Joel Stern

Dalmas ( Bert Deling) was completed in 1973 on a budget of approximately $10,000 supplied by the Experimental Film and Television Fund. Yackerty Yack (Dave Jones) was completed by the end of 1972 also with financial assistance from the Experimental Film and Television Fund. Both Dalmas and Yackerty Yack sit firmly in the category 'film on film'. Both are interested in foregrounding the effect that particular production processes have on the creation of meaning in film. Where the two films differ greatly is in the type of meaning that they create. Yackerty Yack uses reflexivity in order to reinforce its nihilistic ideology, as a tool for the constant revealing of meaninglessness where meaning might have existed in conventional cinema. This might be interpreted as an academic approach to reflexivity. Dalmas uses reflexivity in order to pursue an idealistic model in which the stripping away of constructed cinematic artifice produces a type of liberation where, free of narrative structure, film becomes a medium for honest, real self-expression. These diametrically opposed applications of reflexive technique produces various moments of fantastic contrast between the two films.


Film at La Mama
- William Head

"In a 1969 program guide 15 Australian film makers are cited as having had films screened at La Mama, the alternative Carlton theatre.

La Mama continued to support the exhibition of a whole variety of film makers and became a central node in bringing together emerging film directors with actors and writers. As David Stratton points out 'most low-budget film making in Melbourne centered around two theatres, La Mama and The Pram Factory...' (Stratton p. 274). Some of the film makers associated with this movement were: ...

Bert Deling
' Dalmas' (1973)
'Pure S.' (1976)" ...


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