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Mythological Criticism of “Lake Mungo” by Anderson


One can say that myths are both a product of culture and its cornerstone. They are a manifestation of the past and current experiences of a particular society and a determining factor in subsequent works of art. It is why people, attentive and erudite readers and viewers especially, notice familiar plot elements, twists, and archetypes in literature, cinema, and other forms of creativity. Experts use the techniques of literary criticism to identify the presence of fantastical elements in work and explain their presence in it. One of them that will be applied in this work is mythological criticism. According to Daneshgar and Zare, “a critic in this genre of criticism studies and analyzes all the archetypal signs present in the text which had influenced the creation of literary works whether consciously or unconsciously” (95). In this paper, the Lake Mungo script will be analyzed through the prism of mythological criticism.

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What the Story is about

The genre of Lake Mungo is documentary horror that pretends to be an episode of a TV documentary show. The story is about the Palmer family grieving and coping with the loss of their daughter, Alice (Anderson 1). Gradually, they begin to explore their daughter’s personal life and learn many facts that she kept secret in life, like, for example, her sexual relationship with a neighbor (Anderson 32). In the end, they learn that Alice saw her own ghost that was an omen of her imminent death. Finally, the family decides to move forward, but the nature of Alice’s supernatural identity remains unexplained (Anderson 40). It should be mentioned that initially, the film did not have a clear script; there were only an idea and several plot events. Fletcher notes that “the movie was unscripted, relying on the cast to improvise much of the dialogue which is told through to-camera interviews.” Therefore, it was not the script that preceded the movie but vice versa.

The Script Where Antiquity and Postmodernity Meet

Interestingly, it was found that Lake Mungo contains some elements of ancient Greek mythology. To be more precise, it is the myth of Persephone and Hades, although the director argued that the central theme of this documentary horror is grief (Fletcher). The tale begins with Hades, who is the god of death and the personification of the underworld in the ancient Greek religion, kidnapping Persephone (Fletcher 87). Demeter, her mother, goes to save her and eventually forces Zeus and Hades to conclude an agreement with her about the amount of time Persephone can spend in the world of the living and the dead.

The archetypical and plot parallels between the two are clearly seen. Alice, a young woman “with a zest for life,” is Persephone (Anderson 40). June, who longs to learn more about her daughter’s personal life only after her death, is Demeter, and Hades is Alice’s ghost. Such incorporation of ancient Greek mythology allows the audience to perceive better maternal feelings, especially grief. This effect is achieved by the fact that the myth of Hades and Persephone was one of the first tales to be told from a female perspective.


This paper examines the Lake Mungo script for mythological and archetypal elements. Surprisingly, this documentary horror, which belongs to postmodernity, has aspects of Hades and Persephone’s ancient myth. Based on the interview with the director, it was an unintentional act of incorporation. It proves that myths, fairy tales, and other old non-written forms of storytelling determine future works’ structure, content, and ideas. Even in times of globalization and multiculturalism, people are driven and motivated by the concepts of their ancestors’ culture.

Works Cited

Anderson, Joel. “Lake Mungo.” Web.

Daneshgar, Azar, and Kohan Masoumeh Zare. “Mythological criticism of the symbol fairy and wind in Shahnameh and in the novel of Paribad written by Mohammad Ali Olomi.” The Journal of Epic Literature, vol. 14, no. 2, 2019, pp. 95-116.

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Fletcher, Judith. (2019). Myths of the Underworld in Contemporary Culture: The Backward Gaze. Oxford University Press, 2019.

Fletcher, Rosie. “Lake Mungo: the Lingering Mystery Behind One of Australia’s Scariest Horror Films.” Den of Geek, 2020.

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