Sunday, March 03, 2013


Based on the novel by James Vance Marshall, Walkabout is the story about a teenage girl and her younger brother who find themselves in the Australian Outback unsure of how they will survive only to meet a young Aboriginal boy who helps them. Directed by Nicolas Roeg and screenplay by Edward Bond, the film is an exploration into a world outside of the city and into the unforgiving world that is the Australian Outback. Starring Jenny Agutter, Luc Roeg, and David Gulpilil. Walkabout is a majestic film from Nicolas Roeg.

For the Aborigine, a walkabout is rite of passage they must once they reach past the age of adolescence by walking into the Australian desert for six months. In this film, it is about this Aborigine (David Gulpilil) who encounters a teenage girl (Jenny Agutter) and her younger brother (Luc Roeg) who are lost in the desert just after their father had gone insane and killed himself. For this young woman and her little brother, they have to endure a world that is completely outside of civilization only to get help from this Aborigine to trek through the Outback to return to civilization. Though the two Australians and Aborigine don’t understand each other, the journey they all take would be something that none of them would forget.

Edward Bond’s screenplay doesn’t feature much of a plot since it is about these two Australians who live in the city as they encounter a young Aborigine who helps them trek through the Outback. Yet, the script offers something much more where these two young Australians encounter a world that is out of their comfort zone as they have to deal with the harsh world of nature. With the help of this young Aborigine, they manage to survive the world of nature while discovering something that is very different from civilization. Still, there are elements of that civilized world that is prevalent as the one link the girl and her brother have is a radio.

Nicolas Roeg’s direction is very stylized in some of the presentation that he creates yet he keeps things simple and naturalistic in the way many of the scenes in the Outback are presented. A lot of it includes some very intense close-ups of the characters as well as striking shots of the locations in the wide shots to capture the beauty of the Outback. While there are elements in nature that is cruel, it is still nothing compared to the chaotic world of civilization. Still, Roeg isn’t interesting in fleshing out any kind of visual exposition on what world is better but rather showcase something that is different from what the civilized world have to endure. Even in moments of violence where this young Aborigine has to kill animals to survive where Roeg uses some grainy close-ups to capture this violence yet it is presented with more brutality when the Aborigine sees a couple of hunters do it with rifles as opposed to a spear.

With Roeg also serving as the film’s cinematographer, with some additional work from Tony Richmond, there is a naturalist look to many of the film’s Outback scenes as it is presented with an elegance that feels real. Since the film is also about a meeting of two different worlds, there is also an element of sexual discovery as it concerns the young girl and the Aborigine since there’s a scene of the girl swimming naked in a watering hole while the Aborigine later catches a glimpse of the girl dressing. They’re intrigued by each other but neither of them really know how to express one another. Even as they continue their journey with the little boy as there’s a lot around them that could take the girl and her brother back to civilization. Roeg’s direction also has this element of dreaminess in his montages to play out a world that seemed to have lost some innocence as it does add to a sense of melancholia towards its ending. Overall, Roeg creates a very exotic and hypnotic film about a journey into the world outside of civilization.

Editor Antony Gibbs and Alan Pattillo do amazing work with the editing by creating dazzling rhythmic cuts and stylish montages to play out the contrast between the civilized world and nature as well as some inspiring use of montages and freeze-frames to establish some key moments in the film. Production designer Brian Eatwell and art director Terry Gough do brilliant work with some of the film‘s minimal set pieces from the abandoned home the trio encounter to some of the villages nearby in their journey.

Location sound mixer Barry Brown does excellent work with the editing in creating some unique collages between the differing worlds of civilization and the natural world as well as scenes with the radio. The film’s music by John Barry is fantastic for its mixture of lush orchestral music to play out some of the film’s beauty as well as some intense moments for the drama as well as the use of didgeridoos to establish that harsh world that is nature. The film’s music also includes some pop music of the times including a song by Rod Stewart that is played on the radio.

The film’s cast includes some memorable small roles from John Meillon as the girl and boy’s father as well as Barry Donnelly, Noeline Brown, and Carlo Manchini as a group of scientists doing research in the Outback. The performances of David Gulpilil, Luc Roeg, and Jenny Agutter are truly extraordinary for their naturalistic performances with Gulpilil as the more ambiguous of the three while Roeg is the more innocent of the three since he is a child. In Agutter, she displays a radiance to her character as a teenage girl in transition into becoming a woman while facing the reality that is brought upon her.

Walkabout is an outstanding film from Nicolas Roeg that features mesmerizing performances from Jenny Agutter, Luc Roeg, and David Gulpilil. The film is definitely one of the most entrancing features that displays a world in which two young people have to grow up to encounter the harsh world of nature while getting help from a young Aborigine who has no understanding of the civilized world. For audiences new to Nicolas Roeg, the film is definitely one of his most essential works in the way he captures the beauty that is the Outback. In the end, Walkabout is an incredible film from Nicolas Roeg.

Nicolas Roeg Films: Performance - (Glastonbury Fayre) - Don’t Look Now - The Man Who Fell to Earth - (Bad Timing) - (Eureka) - Insignificance - (Castaway (1986 film)) - (Aria-Un ballo in maschera) - (Track 29) - (The Witches) - (Heart of Darkness (1993 film)) - (Two Deaths) - (Full Body Massage) - (Samson and Delilah (1996 film)) - (Puffball)

© thevoid99 2013


Unknown said...

Nicely done! Such a beautiful film in so many ways. The widescreen photography, the blue skies, the scorched outback, the sense of discovery, and of course young Jenny Agutter. It's interesting to listen to her talk about this on the Criterion commentary track.

thevoid99 said...

Thank you. I hope to get the Criterion DVD sometime this year as there's a lot of films from the Criterion Collection that I want.