Two city-bred siblings are stranded in the Australian Outback, where they learn to survive with the aid of an Aboriginal boy on his "walkabout": a ritual separation from his tribe.Two city-bred siblings are stranded in the Australian Outback, where they learn to survive with the aid of an Aboriginal boy on his "walkabout": a ritual separation from his tribe.Two city-bred siblings are stranded in the Australian Outback, where they learn to survive with the aid of an Aboriginal boy on his "walkabout": a ritual separation from his tribe.
Survivor of Zeitgeist
A remarkably potent little film about a couple of very proper English kids who get lost in the Australian outback and hitch up with an aborigine boy on his initiation quest (or "walkabout"). My mom took me to see it when I was ten, and I've been haunted by it ever since. With some understated yet disturbing themes of alienation and violence, as well as the first scenes of full nudity I had ever witnessed on screen, I've sometimes wondered whether mom knew what she was getting into when she took me along. According to the trailer in the letterbox edition, Parents' Magazine recommended the film "without reservation" for young and old alike, because it depicts "facts of life." While that may be true, times have changed, and I can't imagine anyone today describing this subtle and unsettling story as "family fare." Incredibly tame, on its face, by today's standards of sensory overload, its essential world-weariness and maturity is no longer a didactic priority in our age of overconfidence. Watching it recently, I was on guard for signs of the myth of the "noble savage"--the hackneyed, simplistic, and generally hypocritical pretension that pre-industrial and non-Western peoples are morally superior to decadent moderns, which is demeaning to both modern and "savage" alike. There are instances of it here--most notably when a couple of rifle-toting, four-wheeling hunters decimate the landscape--but the overall emphasis is on the parallels between aborigine and Western life. Even scenes of the transience and decay of modern civilization are mirrored by the life-and-death cycles of the wilderness. With so many underlying similarities, the real question is why the teenaged English girl cannot embrace, figuratively and literally, the young black man who has saved her life and provided so selflessly for her, even while her younger brother, in all his innocence, has never doubted that they are a family. Is it race? Culture? Or does it reach to more fundamental questions of boy and girl, man and woman, human and human? This film has held up remarkably well over the past 30 years, and is well worth a look.
- Feb 26, 2000
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