Walkabout (1971) Directed by Nicolas Roeg
As the years pass the cinema of Nicolas Roeg feels increasingly like the work of an alien descended to earth who opened a new dialogue for film, a dialogue that few dared take up or explore. His movies as director Performance (1970), Don't Look Now (1973), The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976), Bad Timing (1980) and Insignificance (1985) all remain essential and valid examples of timeless and challenging contemporary film. If it's possible, Walkabout, his second feature could be the strangest of them all. This was a film that was on TV a lot when I was growing up. I must have first seen Walkabout when I was around 12. This would have been many people's first view of the Australian outback and certainly their first experience of the indigenous aboriginal population. Walkabout, to a young pre-teen like myself felt like a 'dirty' public information film mixed with an episode of nature watch.
|Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg endure the Australian outback|
|The siblings find a saviour in the aboriginal boy on 'walkabout'|
It was one of those really rare and satisfying moments as a wife when I found the Walkabout DVD in a store, realized that it was directed by Roeg and that Nick would NEED to have it. Finding something meaningful for Nick in the department of books, music and movies is difficult, because he knows everything, has everything – or if he doesn't, he comes up with a line on why it's not necessary/why it's actually bad. When these things are a passion for the both of us, you can imagine my happiness this time around. My eternal frustration is that Nick never reads the books I recommend. I genuinely would like to share the reading experience, but it is hard when our reading paths are so separate. But hey, at least we have the 'shared movie experience' and these reports here on this blog. What follows are my thoughts on the Walkabout:
|Jenny Agutter in Walkabout|
The strength of the film is that it does not judge. The narrative is cruel, but the camera follows events keeping its distance, using landscape as well as microscopic view in the storytelling.
I can see how this movie would have left an impression on me had I seen it as a child or a young person. I could feel the nostalgia Nick was experiencing while watching. For me it was harder to fall into the story and forget about the technical aspect of how this film was acted. I was thinking about how it must have been difficult to get the child actors to act – but maybe they weren't – it looks like they simply did stuff and someone filmed. Watching the story unfold, I was mostly uncomfortable about the way the aboriginal culture was represented through the young male character (who was on his walkabout). Killing him off was a quick way of pointing towards all the clichés (the old traditions having to die and be replaced by imported white European style) and racism and I cannot help but feel that Roeg's movie simply repeated stereotypes. Here's a link to an article I came upon by searching for 'representations of aboriginal culture in Walkabout'. While I had my thoughts and hesitations, I would still strongly recommend this movie. It is extreme and surprising even today. There is still plenty of rebellion in having children as main characters of an adult film.