Walkabout

Walkabout

1971, NR, 100 min. Directed by Nicolas Roeg. Starring Jenny Agutter, Lucien John, David Gumpilil, John Meillon.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 25, 1997

Director Nicolas Roeg's second film Walkabout, which was first released in 1971, has become something of a cult classic. Made in between his memorable directorial debut, Performance, and his two subsequent films, Don't Look Now and The Man Who Fell to Earth (which have come to be recognized as his signature works), Walkabout is a bit of a lost work. At the time of its release, five minutes were cut from Roeg's film to spare audiences a few fleeting shots of full frontal nudity (considerably tepid by modern standards). Neither the edited version nor the director's cut have ever been transferred to video, so this re-release is the first opportunity many will have to see the film for themselves. And although that's good, in a way it's also too bad because Walkabout will never achieve the same cultural impact it had 25 years ago. The story centers on two British children - a teenage girl (Agutter) and her young brother (played by Roeg's son Lucien John) - stranded in the Australian desert after their father chillingly commits suicide (after trying to kill them). They are led back to civilization by an Aboriginal male who appears to be about the girl's age. The fascination of the movie comes from the cultural collision that also carries a sexually charged undercurrent. The stunning camerawork reminds us of Roeg's early years spent as a cinematographer, although such things as lingering shots of desert wildlife and the shock edits that intercut scenes of Aboriginal kills with Western butcher shops tend to seem more naïve and intrusive than they did back in 1971. Roeg's points about the contrasts between noble savages and civilized effetes don't stand up terribly well over time. Still, much of the film does hold up, and opportunities which come around only every 25 years should not be passed up.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Nicolas Roeg Films
Don't Look Now
This is one of those movies that keeps on giving – its gothic moodiness is impossible to shake off. Julie Christie is at her most ...

Marjorie Baumgarten, July 22, 1999

The Man Who Fell to Earth
Bowie is the original space alien.

Jan. 20, 2021

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
The Reason I Jump
Poetic insight into autism, based on Naoki Higashida memoir

Jan. 8, 2021

Marjorie Baumgarten's Top 10 of 2020
Marjorie Baumgarten's Top 10 of 2020
"An eye toward 2020 hindsight"

Dec. 18, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Walkabout, Nicolas Roeg, Jenny Agutter, Lucien John, David Gumpilil, John Meillon

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle