“I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me.”
– ‘My Country’ – Dorothea Mackeller
In the Ozpolitation documentary Not Quite Hollywood, aficionado of the genre Quentin Tarantino states that “if you get your knowledge of Australia from genre films, you are gonna think ‘there’s a desert everywhere’.”
If you see Tracks, a film which entirely takes place in the dusty, red, harsh Australian desert, you would be forgiven for believing this, that Australia’s landscape is just endless dry, lonely, desolation, with a sandy beach being the light at the end of the tunnel.
“And there are new kinds of nomands, not people who are at home everywhere but who are at home nowhere. I was one of them.”
– Robyn Davidson, Desert Places
For Robyn Davidson, this suits her just fine – the emptiness, the feeling of never ending, packing up every day and moving somewhere else to a new beginning, which is why she embarks on the seemingly insane endeavour to walk across the driest part of Australia, with only camels and a dog as company. She hates the fame this brings her, shies away from cameras and fights off most things that threaten her peace, reinforcing that she only wants one thing – to be alone.
But even for one that wishes to have total silence, there is the ever-present feeling that anyone could relate to, which is craving connection to a living thing, something that presents itself in the third act, after Robyn’s reliable source of it is taken away.
Overall, I can’t find many things to fault about Tracks. In fact, I absolutely adore it. I commend it for not going on the conventional path for a road movie, where there is copious amounts of background information to drearily get through before everything starts happening, even though I would have liked to see her childhood explained slightly more, and plodding through day by day, but rather having a balance of both the eventful times of tragedy or triumph, and the days of just endless red dust until the white sand is reached, even though it does jump a bit too much at the beginning, where it seems like Adam Driver’s character turns up every 5 minutes.
Tracks is one of the best Australian films I have seen in a long time, a stirring, visceral, and surprisingly unsentimental exploration of connection to land, others, and oneself, respectfully and correctly dramatising Davidson’s incredible journey. The cinematography is expertly done and never ceases to spellbind, showing just how large the endless landscape is and how insignificant Robyn is in comparison to it. Mia Wasikowska carries the film in such a graceful and brave fashion, engaging the audience even though most of the film comprises of her and animals, and the likeness of the costumes to the real clothes Davidson wore is just astonishing.
Tracks could have gone horribly wrong, becoming an unrealistic tourism advertisement, but instead blooms like a desert flower, surprising and miraculous.
Tracks received a wide release starting Thursday, March 6, 2014.
M (coarse language), 113 mins.