Walkabout (Nic Roeg, 1971)

What's it about? Well, that's the question, isn't it? What happens is that a middle-class, teenage schoolgirl (Jenny Agutter) and her young brother (Luc Roeg) are abandoned in the Australian outback when their father commits suicide. Stumbling through the desert, they encounter an Aboriginal adolescent (David Gulpilil) on a ritual 'walkabout', and he helps them survive the wilds. As to what it's about, well, your guess is as good as mine.


Is it any good? Well, yes, although this is not an easily accessible film. Or more accurately, it's a simple film to watch, but not necessarily to understand. Nothing much really happens, there's numerous documentary-style cutaway shots to footage of Australian wildlife and a couple of rather odd, seemingly irrelevant scenes involving scientists with weather balloons. The juxtaposition of imagery is undeniably striking, but what does all this mean? Is it about the encroachment of the modern world upon the natural world? Or the treatment of the indigenous people of Australia? Or a celebration of the 'wild' human spirit over the 'civilised' one? It might even all be imaginary? Maybe it's all of these things, and each viewer is likely to take something different from it. For me, it's ultimately about lack of communication. This is addressed in the sexual undercurrents of the film, as both teenagers find their natural instincts aroused by the other, but find their respective societies have limited their ability to communicate these feelings. It is not just because they cannot understand each other, but the girl in particular does not try, or want, to make the effort. It is not too much of a stretch to see this as a clear metaphor for lack of communication between different societies in the world today. So, plenty to ponder on, if you wish. Of course, you could ignore all this subtext bollocks and just enjoy the sight of Agutter skinny-dipping in a waterhole. (If truth be told, that's really the only thing I could remember of it since seeing it as teenager. I'm so shallow.)

Anything else I should know? I'm sure you'd like to know what the 3 young stars are doing now. What do you mean you couldn't care less? Well I'm going to tell you anyway. Her commune with nature in Walkabout helped Agutter cast off her staid Railway Children image and she happily went on the shed her clothes in other films, most memorably An American Werewolf in London. Now, she turns up in the odd TV show and works for Cystic Fibrosis charity. Luc Roeg (son of the director) never acted again, but is now a producer, most recently on We Need To Talk About Kevin. Scarily enough, over 40 years later, he still looks exactly like he did in Walkabout - see here for evidence. As for Gulpilil, if you've ever seen an Aborigine character in a movie, chances are it was played by him. Crocodile Dundee? Australia? The Proposition? Rabbit-Proof Fence? Yep, that was him. He still acts occasionally and also works as a spokesperson for the Aboriginal people. Okay, that's you up to speed on the three of them. Don't mention it.

What does the Fonz think? Walkabout? More like Thinkabout.





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