- James Mottram
- 21 April 2014
Blends the hallucinogenic beauty and horror of the desert
Australian cinema has frequently explored the lure of the outback, from 1970s classics like Picnic At Hanging Rock, Walkabout and the just re-released Wake In Fright to more recent films like The Proposition and Wolf Creek. Now, director John Curran adds Tracks to that rarefied list, a film that blends the hallucinogenic beauty and horror of the desert. What’s more, it’s all true.
Based on the best-selling book by Robyn Davidson, Tracks is a frank account of her nine-month trek that began in Alice Springs and took her almost 2000 miles across the country’s most inhospitable terrain. With Davidson played by Mia Wasikowska, accompanying her on this against-the-odds odyssey were just four camels and her faithful dog, Diggity.
While the first act sees her prepare for the journey, learning about life and camels the hard way from a grizzly rancher, the bulk of the film is taken up with her epic journey. Why does she go? Her answer would be simply: ‘Why not?’ Curran isn’t too interested in deep-probing introspection anyway; he’d rather marvel at the shimmering majesty of the desert.
It means that Tracks isn’t the most dynamic of dramas. Davidson does meet with various figures on her journey – from the aged aborigine Eddie (Roly Mintuma), who agrees to escort her across sacred land, to photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver). The only way she could fund the trip was to sign a deal with National Geographic; which meant agreeing to Smolan’s occasional presence, much to her annoyance.
There is some off-and-on (but mainly off) romantic frisson with Smolan too, but largely this is a film about solitude and self-learning. With her usual intelligence, Wasikowska brings authenticity to Davidson. But, sadly, Curran never quite solves the problem of making a story about someone trekking through endless sand dunes riveting.
General release from Fri 25 Apr.