Walkabout: Criterion Collection
Criterion // PG // $29.99 // February 5, 1998
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted November 5, 2001
Highly Recommended
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The Movie:

I have to be honest. At first, I didn't quite "get" "Walkabout". There is a moment in our lives where we mature enough to not simply "drop" something because it may seem vague or confusing to us at first. I'm not always mature, but I think that the past few years of watching endless films has enabled me to stop, step away from something, ponder it, and maybe be rewarded by considering the film further, and maybe coming away with theories about the intentions or concepts presented.

"Walkabout" is the story of two children who are abandoned in the Austrailian Outback by a father who has killed himself and nearly killed them. That event sets the understandable plot into motion: the kids must find their way out of the wilds with nothing but a few scraps of food to eat. Their journey is involving and engaging: we want to see if these two children survive what nature has in store for them. They are simply lost and we can all understand that. But it's later in the film that the sort of vague nature of their journey and the plot's purpose become clearer.

Just when all seems lost, the children are found by an aborigine who gradually takes the two under his care, leading them through nature. The aborigine is on his "walkabout", or journey where, for months, he must live on his own, finding food in nature. As much as he tries to lead the children, they still do not seem to adjust or learn from his nature. The young boy seems unfazed and accepting of the guide. The sister, while accepting, seems more cautious.

The film seems distant and vague at times during their journey, but you can begin to find the issues that the film tries to show, such as the effects of the lack of communication between the two cultures. Where many films between cultures like this seem to have the visitors become part of or be included in the native culture, in "Walkabout", there is a sense of seperation between the children and their guide that I found rather interesting to watch. We are waiting for the children to begin to learn about living off of the land and out of society, but they never do. They seem to regard the aborigine as convient rather than a look at what a different life can hold. The other choice of the film that I found interesting was that neither life is presented as the "better" life. The film seems indifferent until the unfortunate ending that lies at the end of their trip.

As the children make their way back to society, they seem even more lost. Where are they going to go, and with whom? As the film wraps up, the scenes where they have returned to society feel even more desolate than some of the earlier moments in the outback. As lost as they literally were in the wilds, they're emotionally just as lost (if not more) as they leave it, I felt. They've found their way back to...nothing. The film seems to be trying to make a distinct comparison between society and the aborigine culture, but there are only a few moments that make the point clearly defined. What was more apparent to me was a sense of who we are as a part of our environment and our ability (or lack of) once we leave the safety of the world that we know.

Technically, the film has far more positives than negatives. Roeg's cinematography is frequently wonderful, capturing the countryside in stunning beauty. There are a few small problems that I had with editing, where moments of the story seemed slightly random and out of place. The acting by all involved though, is quite good. The story seems to be attempting to have images trying to tell the story at times and although I can certainly respect(and highly enjoy) that choice, I didn't feel that it was always a successful attempt that was made here. Emotions seem so neutral at times that the sort of visual poetry attempted seemed slightly vague.

Again though, "Walkabout" is a film that needs to be worked with and thought about after the viewing experience has ended. Although I don't admit to completely understanding the ideas that the film seemed to present(I'm one who thinks that only the artist or director knows the exact right answer to the intentions of their work), but at least after thinking about the film further, I think I've at least gained some interesting theories about the concepts that run through the tale. "Walkabout" is definitely an interesting and thought-provoking film that I recommend.


VIDEO: A release from when Criterion was not presenting their DVD releases in anamorphic widescreen, "Walkabout" is presented in 1.77:1 non-anamoprhic widescreen and the results are generally good, but not great. Sharpness and detail are fair, as scenes look rather soft throughout the majority of the film, but never blurry or hazy.

Further problems arise throughout the picture, but never cause major distraction. These include a fairly considerable amount of print flaws, such as specks, marks and the occasional hair and scratch. Some shimmering and a couple of tiny traces of pixelation appear, as well. Yet, colors still look fairly fresh and clean after all these years. Not too bad overall, but a fresh new anamorphic transfer would be nice.

SOUND: The film's soundtrack is presented in mono. Although John Barry's wonderful score is certainly one of the soundtrack's highlights, I'm afraid to say that it, as well as the rest of the film's sound, only came through in fair fashion. The audio sounds slightly strained and thin, if only somewhat so.

MENUS:: Enjoyable main menu with minor background animation and audio.

EXTRAS:: Very enjoyable and informative commentary from director Nicholas Roeg and actress Jenny Augutter; two trailers and insert with essay from Roger Ebert.

Final Thoughts: A visually impressive picture with fine performances, "Walkabout"'s DVD edition boasts decent audio and video quality, although the picture does look noticably worn in places. Still, "Walkabout" is worth at least a look as a rental.

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