On the one hand are the brick walls and swimming pools of civilization, shimmering in the Australian heat. On the other is the vast expanse of outback, its wildlife of kangaroos and lizards scratching out a chorus of strange noises.
Worlds collide in this 1971 stunner, an atmospheric adventure that still feels feverish and intimate—a radical film of an innovative decade. A white boy and teenage girl of privilege are stranded in the brush after their father goes suicidal with a gun. Encountering an aborigine, they become a beautifully odd family, inching sweetly toward an Edenic moment that can’t last (underscored by Bond composer John Barry’s lushest music).
Walkabout was the passion project of director-cinematographer Nicolas Roeg. Even though he’d further his gorgeous visual grammar in movies like Don’t Look Now and The Man Who Fell to Earth, this was Roeg’s emotional arrival. The filmmaker—very happily, it seems—relocated his entire family to a four-truck caravan for months. He cast his son, Luc, as the boy and bonded with the resourceful crew.
But the drama (which has never looked better than on this DVD) is dominated by 16-year-old Jenny Agutter, later of Logan’s Run, whose complex performance radiates intelligence. Of her notorious nude swimming scene, Agutter remarks on the commentary: “It has very little to do with exploitation; it has to do with expressing a certain kind of freedom.”—Joshua Rothkopf
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