DIRECTED BY: Nicolas Roeg
FEATURING: Jenny Agutter, David Gulpilil, Luc Roeg
PLOT: A father drives his two children out into the Australian outback for a “picnic.” While
there, he commits suicide, leaving the children to struggle for survival in an unfamiliar and harsh natural world. Eventually they cross paths with an adolescent aborigine who is partaking in his “walkabout”; a rite of passage that entails journeying into the wilderness alone to achieve manhood.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: With the exception of a few odd camera shots, it is not a weird film. It is certainly a thought-provoking and undeniably beautiful film, but depictions of cultural differences and anthropocentricism are easily attainable on the Discovery channel or—to a much higher degree of weirdness—the National Geographic program “Taboo”.
COMMENTS: Most critiques of this film assert that it simply contrasts the natural world vs. the trappings of modern civilization and its unnecessary conveniences. I think that’s too obvious. To me, the underlying theme of budding sexuality and the transition to man/womanhood takes precedence.
The beautiful Jenny Agutter plays the girl (no names are given to the lead roles). We assume she is around the age of sixteen and living a privileged life of private schooling and residing in a luxury home with all the modern amenities she could need. An early shot of the girl swimming with her much younger brother in a crystal clear pool right next to an enormous, vast ocean is a personal favorite. We don’t know anything about the family dynamics or how they interact with each other. We can only guess the parent-child relationships are cold and impersonal. The mother listens to cooking recipes on the kitchen radio, and any disturbance from his offspring only annoys the father.
Once we get to the outback things become even more unclear. Why is the father trying to kill his kids? Why is he such a bad shot? Who knows? He then offs himself, leaving the kids to fend for themselves. Right away the viewer is treated to close-ups of reptiles, insects and other strange creatures to convey that the youngsters are definitely out of their element. There is a really nice juxtaposition of the young 6-year-old boy (Luc Roeg—the director’s son) fading into the landscape: a melding of human and nature.
Nicolas Roeg is an amazing director. Lovers of weird cinema know him through classics Continue reading CAPSULE: WALKABOUT (1971)