Tracks – Review by Frank L
Directed by John Curran
Stars: Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver, Emma Booth
Released on April 25th
“Tracks”, based on the book of the same title by one Robyn Davidson, portrays her unlikely trek as a young woman, from Alice Springs to the coast of the Indian Ocean through 1,700 miles of harsh, unforgiving Australian outback accompanied by four camels and a dog. The book was published in 1980 and there have been several attempts to make it into a film. Initially the trek is just a mad-cap plan but Davidson perseveres and after many months, National Geographic out of the blue agree to sponsor her madness.
The film begins with her trying to cajole tough- rough, camel masters to train her how to look after camels. In addition to the inherent potential danger which lies within these magnificent beasts, the camel masters make it clear that the outback at all times is hostile. While there are some sand dune and camel shots for the most part the trek is through scrub bushes, scare crow trees and hard, brown, stony baked earth. Davidson is at all times the centre point with the four camels playing extensive supporting roles magnificently. The carriage of their heads and the sure-footedness of the even plod of their walk provides a rhythm to the film, which has a mesmeric quality, as the caravan of four moves slowly westwards guided by Davidson. These images of their disciplined gait is in contrast to the earlier scenes of the feral camels, being trained having been lassooed in the wild, to become sort of domesticized. There are many shots of their intimidating jaws with their long, threatening teeth which might attack with the power of those jaws and those long teeth the main instrument of any attack.
Mia Wasikowska, who plays Davidson, is a creature of fair hair and pale skin whose appearance contrasts markedly with the indigenous Aborigines whom she encounters and whose lives are being disrupted to an extent to enable her to make her trek. The director, John Curran contrasts Davidson’s awareness of the Aborigenes’ traditions and their sensitivities to the crassness of a group of casual tourists and the photographer from National Geographic who believe their possession of a camera gives them the God given right to photograph anything they want regardless of the sensitivities of the individuals being photographed.
Once the trek begins there is flashed on the screen the actual number of the day. The days mount into the hundreds. This little technique underlines how repetitive and dull much of the trek must have been. However notwithstanding this dull repetitive background, Curran, who is in his mid fifties and this is his fourth feature film, manages to create a feeling of tension throughout as there is a great empathy for the camels as they plod willingly and slowly through the unforgiving terrain led by the determined Davidson. Skilfully Curran manages to provide throughout a sufficient number of small incidents during the trek to keep your attention gripped , not easy given the background of the trek itself.