Released in 1971, Nicolas Roeg’s Walkabout is a hypnotic piece of cinema which offers a fascinating look at culture, nature and humanity in the Australian outback. Roeg’s technique as a director is fascinating and the film at once feels like a naturalist documentary and a piece of art.
John Meillon plays a father who takes his teenage daughter (Jenny Agutter) and young son (Lucien John) into the Australian outback for a picnic. Broken down by the pressures of life he attempts to shoot them, but they escape and he turns the gun on himself. Wandering alone in the intense heat of the outback, the pair happen upon an Aboriginal boy (David Gulpilil) who shows them how to survive in the wilderness. Together the three form a unit which puts their lives under an emotional microscope.
Walkabout is a mirage of a film, loaded with startling imagery and a dream-like sense of plotting and story. It exists as a half-remembered memory which illustrates how nature, culture and modern life converge in a way which isn’t always harmonic.
The film’s small cast Jenny Agutter, Lucien John (aka Luc Roeg) and David Gulpilil all deliver impressive and naturalist performances, but it is Nicolas Roeg as director who is the true star of Walkabout. He is a director working at the top of his powers and his use of music (by John Barry), imagery and sound crafts a haunting a captivating piece of cinema.
The plotting and dialogue may be as sparse as the Australian outback shown in the film, but Walkabout is a film packed with many themes and a lot of subtext. Nicolas Roeg’s film is still as relevant and essential today as it was when it was first released more than 50 years ago.
Second Sight Films has delivered a stunning package which gives Walkabout the release it deserves. Roeg’s film has undergone a glorious new 4k scan and restoration – it looks beautiful. The film comes with a new audio commentary with Luc Roeg and David Thompson, interviews with producer Si Litvinoff and stars Luc Roeg and Jenny Agutter. There’s also a great interview with Danny Boyle, who discusses Walkabout and the career of Nicolas Roeg. Also included is a 2011 BFI Q&A with Nicolas Roeg, Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg and a vintage Roeg himself. In a word: brilliant!