Walkabout (Criterion Spine #10) is an English film shot in Australia and originally released in 1971. Its Criterion Blu-Ray release came on May 18, 2010. Nichols Roeg (<3) has four other films in the collection: Don’t Look Now (Spine #745), Bad Timing (Spine #303), Insignificance (Spine #566), and one of the oddest films ever, The Man Who Fell to Earth (Spine #304), which is currently out of print.
Siblings, played by Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg, are displaced in the Australian Outback after their father loses his mind. As they wander and adapt to the living conditions, they meet a boy on his “walkabout,” which for the aborigines, refers to a rite of passage in which a young male is cast into the bush to become a man.
Nicolas Roeg approaches filmmaking with a desire to test its boundaries. With Walkabout his experimental filming technique uses his story to provide an existential dissection of the concept of “lifestyle.” The young aborigine and the two (former) middle class children venture through nature of the Outback, learn to understand each other, and provide viewers with a deep look into the comparative shape of life as it exists in two distinctly separate cultures.
This is achieved by Roeg’s expressive camerawork, his ability to articulate idea through cinematography. Roeg’s positioning of humans within nature provides a story that doesn’t require dialogue to supplement the imagery. Walkabout could have been filmed without one single word. Though, that’s to take nothing away from how good each individual performance is.
In the end, Walkabout is a wholly realized journey through life as a concept. With the young, abandoned children as avatars, Walkabout investigates our own individual experience, positioned against a much more simple lifestyle. Walkabout very may well be the most realized film ever made, and should be viewed by the masses.
The Blu-ray addition had, at the time of its release, a new 35 mm transfer that provided a smoother screen appearance, highlighting the clashing colors of the Outback. Also, on the release, we get video interviews with the above-mentioned main actors. The bonuses include two other standard practices for the collection: a theatrical trailer and an essay in the booklet (written by author Paul Ryan). But, the two gems here are the Audio commentary by Roeg and Agutter and a documentary titled Gulpilil, One Red Blood, that tackles the life and career of David Gulpilil, who plays the Australian Outback aborigine in the film.
This is an exciting Criterion release that offers a lot of substance in its supplements, and the documentary on Gulpilil is entertaining and informative to say the least. Roeg’s sophisticated approach is always fun. Walkabout deserves any praise it receives.
Criterion Grade: A
Film Grade: A