In A Savage Land is the story of a newly married anthropologist husband and wife team Phillip and Evelyn (Martin Donovan and Maya Stange) who travel to an island group in New Guinea to study the sexual mores of a group of villagers. They arrive as World War II begins. Their relationship begins to break down when the woman realises her pompous husband is wrongly interpreting the research to further his own academic ambitions. After a traumatic incident involving the chief\'s daughter, she enlists the help of a buccaneer pearl trader, Mick (Rufus Sewell), to travel to another island where she intends to research a village of headhunters - alone - and begins to fall in love with Mick. By the time she returns to her husband, he is seriously ill and the Japanese are poised to invade their island, ostensibly on the way to New Guinea and Australia. Evacuated from the Trobriands, Evelyn loses contact with Mick.
 

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A couple go to an island off of Papua New Guinea for field research.

Dr. Phillip Spence ( Martin Donovan) and his new wife, a former student Evelyn (Maya Stange) embark on a year-long study of sexual life in the Trobriand Islands. It`s the 1930`s. It`s not long before Evelyn`s eager to pursue her own investigations, because she believes her husband`s focus is ignoring the women. But she makes several mistakes, coming up against the Rev Ian MacGregor (John Howard) and the local administrator - Max Cullen. As well, a photograph she takes has terrible repercussions for a local couple. Her one ally is a trader Mick Carpenter (Rufus Sewell) who seems to blend with the natives and with the landscape despite the fact that he`s exploiting the situation... In a Savage Land has an extraordinary texture simply because Bill Bennett has taken the trouble to shoot this on location in the Trobriands. It`s fascinating. The film itself has resonances of a 1930`s melodrama but in a strange way Bennett and co-writer Jennifer Bennett avoid the obvious and push the characters to quite dramatic extremes. But I don`t think that the film ultimately delivers a satisfactory contemporary context. And the supporting characters of MacGregor and the administrator are oddly cliched. Maya Stange is a major new talent on screen, she`s so good in this and Martin Donovan and Rufus Sewell are too. But the other star of the film is cinematographer Danny Ruhlmann who`s an award-winning commercials photographer, this is his first feature and it looks stunning. David`s Comments:Visually breathtaking. The location filming on Trobriand Islands really gives you a feel for the place and its people. The first 2/3rds of the film are gripping, if at times a bit downbeat - the questions raised about the way Europeans treat the people of the islands are still relevant. Unfortunately, the love story fails to soar; it comes too late in the film, and it`s too uninvolving - Rufus Sewell is, I think, miscast as the Errol Flynn-type American trader. And some of the supporting characters, especially Max Cullen`s administrator, are caricatures. Maya Stange`s terrific in her first film.