Walkabout  (1971)




Director:  Nicolas Roeg

Starring:  Jenny Agutter (Girl), Luc Roeg (White Boy), David Gulpilil (Black Boy), John Meillon (Man), Robert McDarra (Man), Peter Carver (No Hoper), John Illingsworth (Young Man), Hilary Bamberger (Woman), Barry Donnelly (Australian Scientist), Noeline Brown (German Scientist), Carlo Manchini (Italian Scientist)

a British boy and girl are stranded in the outback and form a relationship with a young aborigine


Interesting movie, but a little weird. The Americans would have had a fit with this movie; actress Jenny Agutter appears nude, but she was only 14 years of age at the time.  There is a lot of killing of animals in the movie commensurate with Aboriginal life, but fairly disturbing to those of us living in more advanced civilizations. 

A father drives his young daughter and younger son from school out into the desert on the pretext of having a picnic.  In the desert he tries but fails to kill his children with a handgun.  He then sets his car afire and shoots himself in the head.  (According to the director's commentary on the DVD, the father was despondent over the prospect of his losing his job and his affluent life-style.)

The kids are now on their own.  And so they start a journey, hopefully back  to civilization.  They are hampered, of course, by a lack of knowledge of survival techniques, geography and just about everything else necessary for survival.  They are near death, when they are saved by an sixteen year old Aborigine on a walkabout (i.e., a rite of passage in a test of survival for 16 year old males). 

And the journey continues with lots of killing of animals (I felt sorry for the poor kangaroos) and lots of flies on dead things.  (There is a lot of time spent on this to what purpose?  It just makes the watcher glad he is not an Aborigine.)  The girl in the movie is also weird.  She never seems grateful to the Aborigine for saving her and her brother's lives (in fact, she is scared of him when he performs a mating ritual).  She is never even curious about him or his culture.  And she never really communicates with him (doing so only through her brother).  In contrast, the boy does connect with the Aborigine.  He learns a primitive form of communication with him, enjoys playing around with him, and actually likes the Aborigine.  

While the girl is not attracted by aboriginal culture at all, the Aboriginal is attracted to the girl and her way of life.  But the director asks the question whether the Aboriginal would ever be accepted in the world of affluent whites. 

An additional virtue of the movie is some interesting photography of the Australian outback and the many animals that make their home there.  (You never learn the names of the animals, but they are certainly interesting looking.)

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


See The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978).


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