Review: ‘Tracks’ (M) ***and a half

Tracks-new“I PROBABLY looked like a senile old derelict, with my over-large sandals, filthy baggy trousers, my torn shirt, my calloused hands and feet and my dirt-smeared face.”

It’s kinda nice that in the book about her solitary (for the most part) trek leading three pack camels and the calf of one of them, from Alice Springs to the WA coast near Ningaloo during 1977/78, Robyn Davidson felt a need to describe her appearance. The story, as compressed into a screenplay by Marion Nelson, tells about a woman writing about more important matters than how she was looking.

Playing Davidson, Canberra native Mia Wasikowska displays a palpable physical resilience that runs contrary to the more delicate feminine roles that in her 10-year career have taken her to the top international levels of film acting.

Wasikowska admirably projects Davidson as a woman driven by personal objectives, carrying personal baggage from childhood and managing personal emotional reconstruction during the journey.

Photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver), assigned by sponsor the National Geographic Society to record Davidson at intervals during the journey, has a double burden.

At first meeting, he comes across as a brash twit and intrusive prat concerned only for the shot (of itself not unreasonable but, in context here, close to bullying). He is a constant reminder that without sponsorship, her journey might have been, if not impossible, then more dangerous and difficult than it actually was.

John Flaus is fine as Sallay, the cameleer of Afghan descent, who trained Davidson in camel management. Roly Mintuma brings gentle wisdom and friendship as Eddie who volunteered to guide Davidson along a 160 mile detour around Ngaanyatjarra Aboriginal lands.

The uncredited star in “Tracks” is the western part of our continent’s land mass straddling the Tropic of Capricorn. Three bands of colour from edge to edge of the screen and the merest hint of the sinking sun’s upper limb need no detail of either sky or land to look magnificent. The film displays challenging and spectacular surface features that I expect few Europeans have seen. Until here.

Neither mainstream cinema nor documentary, the chiefest virtue of “Tracks” is reducing nearly seven months and 2560 kilometres into 113 minutes of absorbing cinema blessed with a strong sense of verity.

At Palace Electric, Dendy and Capitol 6

 

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