Latest ‘Mad Max’ Tale, ‘Furiosa,’ Draws Crowds at Cannes

Latest ‘Mad Max’ Tale, ‘Furiosa,’ Draws Crowds at Cannes

“Protect the green place,” Furiosa’s mother tells her at the start of the film, Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, from Australian director George Miller, which premiered at Cannes this year. This is a powerful film, and hard to watch at times given all the violence, murder, and bloodshed. It’s a movie about war and about love – and the human spirit’s insuppressible drive for survival.

As a young girl, Furiosa experiences a great trauma and is eventually captured by the very person who inflicted the trauma on her family. But Furiosa doesn’t fall into victimhood as one could so easily do in her circumstances. No; she’s a survivor and a fighter. The adult Furiosa is portrayed by Anya Taylor-Joy who brings Furiosa’s bravery to life.

At the beginning of the film, we hear voiceovers telling the audience that the world has gotten too hot, there have been multiple pandemics, and currency no longer has any meaning. We’re in a fallen world, which consists of three different “fortresses” in the desert. The film, told in five distinct chapters, walks us through Furiosa’s saga. It’s said that in storytelling, there are really only two conventions: A stranger comes to town, or a hero goes on a journey. Furiosa is our hero, and she takes us on an epic journey.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

In a resource-scarce world full of dust and heat, Furiosa, like everyone else she meets, is fighting for survival. She comes from a green place – the place her mother asks her to protect – it’s a place of abundance where they have resources. The “Green Place of Many Mothers,” as it’s called, is a secret and sacred place. But Dr. Dementus (Chris Hemsworth), who has captured Furiosa as a little girl, is hellbent on finding the green place and exploiting it. Furiosa will do everything she can to protect it, as she promised her mom.

Dr. Dementus exerts “ownership” over Furiosa, which fuels her even more to escape from him. He claims to be her father, but she dispels this falsehood, and it leads to a freedom of sorts. She grows up, she learns how to build cars, she reinvents herself, she cuts her hair, and becomes the person she’s meant to be, but it came at an exceptionally high price: A lost childhood, and a lost mother.

When she meets Dr. Dementus again as an adult, she asks if he remembers her. She wants to kill him, and he says that hate is a powerful force, especially hate fueled by grief. He tells Furiosa he understands her hate-driven grief because it’s the same kind he lives with after losing his children. (Throughout the film, he wears his children’s teddy bear around his neck, and at one point, he gives the stuffed animal to Furiosa as a child.) Dr. Dementus’s name suits him; he is totally demented and mad. He’s deeply untrustworthy at every single turn, and all his moral failings catch up with him in the end.

Furiosa meets someone; a handsome someone, who she befriends and later loves. His name is Praetorian Jack (Tom Burke). “Where are you two going so full of hope?” asks Dr. Dementus before inflicting torture on Furiosa and Praetorian after he flips over their escape car. “There’s no hope for any of us!” screams Dr. Dementus. But he’s wrong; Furiosa is full of hope – living with love-filled hope and also her hate-fueled grief. Despite suffering unthinkable tragedy as a child, Furiosa’s spirit is indomitable and at no point does she give up on herself or her quest. She is living through war (“there’s always been war [and always will be]” one character says), and she’s fighting the forces of evil. She’ll go to great lengths to ensure her survival, including a very gruesome thing that leads to her needing a prosthetic arm, which she creates using her mechanical skills.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga is a cautionary tale about what could happen to our world if we fail to take care of it. It’s also a story about a woman with fierce hope amid war and suffering, and a belief that she can change the world for the better. This film and its message of hope and change in a violent world feels especially relevant and worth celebrating.

Lead photo credit : Anya Taylor-Joy in "Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga"

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Anne McCarthy is a contributing writer to BBC News, Teen Vogue, The Telegraph, Dance Magazine, and more. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Westminster and is the Editor in Chief of Fat Tire Tours’ travel blog. She lives in New York City.