WALKABOUT. (1971) BASED ON THE NOVEL BY JAMES VANCE MARSHALL. DIRECTED BY/CINEMATOGRAPHY BY NICOLAS ROEG. MUSIC BY JOHN BARRY.
STARRING JENNY AGUTTER, LUC ROEG AND DAVID GULPILIL.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
This is an extraordinary film. I recently watched it on DVD on a Sunday lunchtime after waiting in vain for BBC2 to put on Rita Hayworth in PAL JOEY (1957) as promised. Damn you, Rio Olympics 2016…!
Televised sporting events have a lot to answer for, haha. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve sat down, cup of tea and a biscuit beside me, all ready to watch a film only to hear the dreaded words:
‘Unfortunately, due to extended coverage of golf/horse-racing/the World Snooker Championships, the advertised movie will not now be shown…’ GRRRRR…!
Anyway, I had WALKABOUT out on loan from the library so I thought I’d give it a whirl, as it had recently been recommended to me by a Facebook friend as an example of British film-maker Nicolas Roeg’s early work. It was every bit as good as I’d been led to believe, and then some.
The film tells the incredible story of an English schoolgirl and her cute little golden-haired brother who find themselves stranded in the Australian Outback after a family picnic goes horribly wrong. They are saved from an agonising death from thirst and starvation (but mainly thirst!) by the timely appearance of a teenage Aboriginal boy.
The boy, fortuitously for the girl and her brother, is out in the Bush on his own doing his ‘walkabout.’ This refers to the several weeks the young Aboriginal boy must spend in the Outback alone, learning about basic survival among other things, before he can officially become a man.
This boy is definitely going to earn his stripes. It seems like there’s nothing he doesn’t know about surviving alone in the Bush. He knows how to suck water up out of the ground after the children’s water pool dries up mysteriously overnight. He knows how to kill various Bush animals, big and small, and cook their meat over a fire. The kids sure are lucky they ran into this guy…!
The girl, played by Jenny Agutter of THE RAILWAY CHILDREN fame (she was only seventeen at the time this was made) is undeniably beautiful and extremely camera-friendly. The camera, in fact, takes every opportunity to linger on her long, lissom legs and small firm breasts. Her school uniform skirt is more than a little north of the knee and every few minutes she’s whipping off her blouse and bra to have a wash or go for a swim.
She appears fully-frontally naked in several of the scenes and, while I acknowledge that it might not be practical to wear layers of heavy town clothing in the blazing Bush, it’s pretty obvious that Ms. Agutter’s constant nudity was always going to be an important selling factor for the film, which did in fact have some censorship issues when it was released.
The Aboriginal boy and the beautiful girl are intensely sexually aware of each other. Curious eyes caress naked breasts, buttocks and thighs every chance they get and there’s a palpable sexual tension between the pair. It’s not done in a lewd or nasty way, however, despite what I said about all the deliberate nudity earlier…!
Young men and women do think of each other in mostly sexual terms when they’re going through puberty, and there’s nothing going on between the boy and girl in the film that’s not all perfectly natural and inevitable. There are quite a few stark-naked Aborigines featured in the film as well, by the way. Just to let you know, like…!
Even though the film’s rated ’12s,’ I personally would have slapped a ’15s’ certificate on it. Not because there’s anything at all wrong with the naked human body, especially in situations in which clothes are not normally worn anyway, but mainly because kids watching the film may find all the coming-of-age hoo-ha and sexual awareness stuff a bit confusing and hard to handle.
The other star of this fabulously-photographed film would have to be the Australian Bush itself. What a hauntingly beautiful but terrifying place it is, just like in PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK from the exact same era. I know I wouldn’t last five minutes out there alone, not being a naturally outdoorsy kind of gal. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The knowledge you’d need to possess to be able to survive in a harsh place like that would just boggle the mind. Fair play to anyone who’s ever managed it. It would be beyond most people nowadays, myself included.
We’re mostly all much too spoilt with phones and gadgets and microwave ovens and whatnot to be able to even imagine a life without our many comforts and safeguards. Could we, for example, even last a day without social media? Unlikely. Try it and see…!
The Bush animals in their natural habitat are themselves extraordinary. Your eyes will bug out of your head when you see some of them. They’re out of this world. Miracles of nature, all of ’em! The scenes with the hunters are deeply distressing, though. There are real scenes of animal deaths in the film that will upset any animal-lovers out there so be warned.
I loved the imagery of the sexy trees (these have to be seen to be believed!) and also the fact that Rod Stewart’s GASOLINE ALLEY, one of his earliest hits if not the very first, is playing on the girl’s tinny little transistor radio near the start of the film. I literally hadn’t heard that song played anywhere in years. It’s a great song and it was quite a surprise to hear it here.
The golden-haired little boy, whom I think is Nicolas Roeg’s own son, is a great little actor. Nicolas Roeg, by the way, is the director of one of the best and most haunting horror films ever made, namely DON’T LOOK NOW (1973), based on the short story by Daphne Du Maurier. She also wrote the novel REBECCA and the short story THE BIRDS, both of which were turned into superb films by movie maestro Alfred Hitchcock. The lucky cow…!
The courtship/mating ritual scene towards the end of the film is amazing and its outcome brutally harsh. I really disliked the girl afterwards, even though technically she did nothing wrong. You’ll see what I mean if you watch WALKABOUT for yourself.
There are probably two ways of looking at it. Just because the boy wants something and offers something to her doesn’t at all mean that the girl has to feel the same or reciprocate. Just because he’s saved her life doesn’t mean she has to repay him in that way, does it?
On the other hand, she does come across as a real cold fish, self-possessed and self-absorbed, and it’s not really her whom we feel sorry for. That’s just my opinion, though. You guys can make up your own minds as to whose side you’re on, if anyone’s. For all we know, it could just be some shit that happens, as we know that shit undoubtedly does at times.
Anyway, you should definitely watch this excellent film if you ever get the chance. It’s absolutely unforgettable. You’ll have to be okay with all the nudieness, though. If you’ve already watched bare titties and butts jiggling about in constant motion in other films in the past and come through unscathed, then you’ll probably be okay this time around too. Just in case, though, I’ll certainly pray for you, dearest readers…!
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens’ fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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