Walkabout, Nicholas Roeg’s first feature film (not counting the co-directed effort of Performance), for once, ended up being exactly what I expected it to be. I went into it expecting a spiritual journey of the leading two youths as they try and find a way home through the Australian outback, and that’s precisely what I ended up getting. Now, that’s not to say that Walkabout was predictable, but rather, it doesn’t sell itself as something it’s not. What it is, though, is an often disorienting and hypnotizing assailing of the senses, aimed at getting you to, for but a brief moment of your life, succumb to the spirituality of the world. There’s a great many layers of life that most people never seem to touch, except for a select few who choose to have such experiences. Walkabout is probably one of the best captured examples of such an experience on film.
The film starts off with one of the best premises I’ve seen in cinema. A father of two, a teenage girl and her much younger brother, takes the two of them out into the Australian wilderness, then calmly begins firing at them from a pistol, before setting the car on fire and shooting himself, stranding them miles from civilization. From there, the two set out on what is undoubtedly the most significant experience of their lives, meeting up with an Aborigine youth on his spiritual “walkabout” as they try to find their way back home. Of course, the journey they take is a walkabout of their very own, but that should be apparent to any conscious film viewer. Where the film succeeds is the pervasive and all-encompassing mood it sets once the story has truly begun; it is genuinely ethereal, and spends most of its time capturing the wilderness and experimenting with sound effects and so-called music to manipulate your sense of perception into something not quite tethered to reality.
Now, all this isn’t to say that this is an experience that is worth having for some people. I took to it very well, given my somewhat more spiritual nature, but I can definitely see how others might view this as just weird and boring. Not a whole lot actually happens in the film, which will make it hard to sit through for some, but for those with the inclination and the patience to sit through this one, there’s a great deal that can be gleaned from it. I’m certainly pleased with this one, though I don’t know if I’d have the same from it in a second go-through, so I’m not sure I’d ever watch this one again. But this was more than just another checkbox for me, so for that, I’m grateful for having sat through this, and I can only hope that, if you do decide to give it a chance, you will be too.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10