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Tracks - Film Review

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by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (subscribe)
Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I'll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel
Published January 16th 2014
Robyn Davidson's epic journey
Film still

Reviewing a movie is a lot like filling out two columns of a ledger with the debits and credits clearly listed.

These could not be more clearly demarcated than in Tracks the new movie based on Robyn Davidson's epic 2700km trek from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, where she lead her dog, Diggity, and a team of hissing spitting camels.

Directed by John Curran (The Painted Veil, We Don't Live Here Anymore) and photographed by Mandy Walker (whose other credits, include Baz Luhrmann's "Australia"), whose cinematography is stunning, from the brooding sunset silhouettes of Uluru (Ayer's Rock), to the red carpet desert of WA and the snow- white sand dunes ringing the sapphire blue of the Indian Ocean.

Film still

There are also some totally assured performances such as: Eddie (Roly Mintuma), the aboriginal elder who agrees to escort Robyn across sacred land and Adam Driver (Inside Llewyn Davis, but known as Lena Dunham's boyfriend in Girls) who plays Rick, the gawky National Geographic photographer who drops in on Robyn every few months, shattering her reverie and solitude with his intrusive demands for her to pose for his photographs.

There is also some incredible sensitivity on the part of Curran to what could too easily have been over sensationalised, such as Davidson's sexual relationship with Rick and the scene in which with her brain half curdled by the sun, she staggers naked in the desert with menstrual blood trickling down her thigh.

Film still

But it is in the casting of Mia Wasikowska (who has played Jane Eyre and also Alice in Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland) as Davidson which lessens some of the film's significant virtues because this porcelain waif never totally fills Davidson's larger than life and sand-filled shoes.

Davidson was member of the Sydney Push, a group of intelligent hard-living bohemians of the 1960s whose core group included people like Clive James and Germaine Greer. She was and even today in her 60s, remains extremely beautiful. She would later have a couple of high profile lovers, including author Salman Rushdie and Narendra of India's Rajasthan aristocracy.

Image Robyn Davidson Facebook: Shortly after completing her epic journey, Robyn Davidson appeared on the cover of the March 1978 edition of National Geographic. The magazine featured an article about the trip written by Robyn and accompanied by Rick's Smolan's stunning images, which went on to become one of the most successful National Geographic features of its time.

There are some photographs of her at the end of the movie which only highlight the disparity between the ethereal Miss Wasikowska and this vibrant stunning and earthy woman.

In real life Robyn Davidson ended up in Alice Springs with $6 in her pocket and a suitcase of inappropriate clothing.

Image Robyn Davidson Facebook photo by Rick Smolan

From the photos it is clear that the wardrobe has been carefully replicated in the movie including all her 70's kaftans and sarongs.

These costumes, which swim on Wasikowska's thin frame, were part of the sensationalism of the original story. There have possibly since been more significant solo adventuresses, such as 16 year old Jessica Watson and her solo voyage around the world, but there is nothing quite like the stunning images of Davidson in her flowing half revealing sarongs leading a throng of camels across the desert.

Original photo by Rick Smolan"0

Because Wasikowska doesn't quite make the cut, it leaves the audience guessing why a pretty young girl decides to spend some of her most significant years of her life training seething spitting camels, and then embarking on a gruelling blistering seven month journey.

Image of the original Robyn Davidson Rick Smolan

As even the character or Davidson says in the film, something like "You get up you pack up all your crap, walk for ten hours a day and then unpack your crap again."

There are hints; a father who saw himself as a bit of an adventurer and Davidson's attempt to come to terms with a mother who committed suicide, but never at least in the movie, is Davidson's sheer will and determination crystallised into something the audience can actually take hold of.

Davidson would in fact go onto many years of writing about nomads in journeys which would take her to India and Tibet She is obviously a woman with a strong affinity for nomadic people, the wilderness and animals, although one might say this falls short of love - as you wouldn't put those you love through such gruelling expeditions.

I have not however read Davidson's international bestseller Tracks, which is often on school reading lists as a coming of age story and I gather would perhaps provide a better understanding of the motivation lacking in this beautifully rendered, but in the end, somewhat lack lustre screen adaptation.


Mia Wasikowska
Adam Driver
Director: John Curran

Writer: Marion Nelson

In Competition: 2013 Venice Film Festival

Official selection: 2013 Toronto International Film Festival

Official selection: 2013 Telluride Film Festival
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*Nadine Cresswell-Myatt was invited as a guest
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Why? To view the rendering of this famous book
Where: In selected
Your Comment
Thanks for the contextualisation - it's made me more curious about Robyn Davidson.
by Sue Stevenson (score: 2|569) 2624 days ago
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