Freelance writer specialising in serendipity: the art of finding wonderful things by accident or sagacity. Comments and suggestions always welcome!
Published February 3rd 2014
One woman’s odyssey from the Red Centre to the sea
Tracks is the story of a young woman determined to follow her dream. Based on the best-selling memoir by Robyn Davidson, directed by John Curran and starring Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver, the film chronicles her 1,700 mile walk through the desert, from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean, alone except for four camels and her dog,
Image: Transmission Films
Alice Springs in 1975 was a racist, sexist, rough-and-ready place and Wasikowska portrays Davidson with a perfect mix of toughness and vulnerability. Locals think her idea is bordering on suicidal but her willingness to work and learn at the various camel farms eventually earns her the wild camels which she trains and equips.
When asked the reason for her dream she replies "I just want to be by myself." Although her motivation is never entirely clear, the film does show flashbacks of loss and heartbreak, hinting that this is as much a spiritual as a physical journey.
She initially refuses offers of help from cheerful American photographer Rick Smolan (Driver) but eventually embraces his idea of National Geographic sponsorship, even with the condition that he meet up with her along the way to document the trip. After a prickly beginning, their relationship gradually develops into a trusted friendship. At first Driver seems to depict Smolan as rather shallow but as the relationship deepens so too does our understanding of his character and strengths.
Image: Transmission Films
The desert landscape is an integral part of the story and cinematographer Mandy Walker captures it in all its harsh beauty, using Smolan's photos for inspiration. (Some of the originals can be seen on Davidson's Facebook page.) The aerial shots are especially effective as they illustrate the great emptiness of the Central Australia desert.
Yet even in this emptiness there are stations, government workers and Aboriginal settlements who welcome the "camel lady". In one of the stand-out performances of the film, Rolley Mintuma as elder Mr Eddie travels with Davidson across sacred country, talking constantly in language and pantomime. Yet despite this and the regular visits from Smolan, in the end Davidson must face the harshest party of the journey truly alone.
Overall, Tracks is not an action adventure but a beautiful quest that slowly unfolds into an intense experience, one that still resonates today.
Tracks opens nationally on 6 March.
Robyn Davidson is appearing at several preview sessions. Rick Smolan will be joining her at some of these events. Details at Palace Cinemas.