Urban Cinefile
"They gave me the script, which I read and didn't respond to; I didn't want to do it. It was that simple. "  -Keanu Reeves on Speed 2
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday July 12, 2018 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



In 1922, The Tracker (David Gulpilil) has the job of tracking an Aborigine (Noel Wilton) suspected of murdering a white woman and leads a police office, The Fanatic (Gary Sweet), his offsider, The Follower (Damon Gameau) and a seconded assistant The Veteran (Grant Page) across the outback. The journey descends into an acrimonious and murderous trek that shifts power from one man to another, challenged by the indigenous people they come across – as well as each other.

A young boy and her older sister are left stranded in the deserted outback after the suicide of their father. As they try to return to so called civilisation, they encounter a young Aboriginal on traditional, ritual ‘walkabout’. They all try to jump the cultural divide, but all they manage is a superficial exchange – yet their lives are forever changed.

Reviews by Andrew L. Urban:
A haunting, powerful film that soars on the wings of its music and its sublime images, its sense of humanity and its wry humour, The Tracker is a work of lasting value that deserves to be digitally preserved. Magnificent, almost tangible sound matches the superb picture transfer which luxuriates in the widescreen presentation. David Gulpilil is riveting as The Tracker, a man so much more civilised, smart and worldly than his companions, but always just shy of smug. As a symbolic figure, he represents the genuine wisdom of ancient civilisations, confronted and sometimes confined by the present. He carries the chains he is forced to wear and recycles them as his weapons of justice and freedom. The Follower, likewise, finds his own moral strength by acting on his humanity. The use of special paintings by Peter Coad to depict certain violent scenes instead of filming them creates an emotional channel effectively used. Excellent cinematography adds to the visual values, while Graham Tardif’s music and Archie Roach’s haunting vocals elevate the film to a highly emotive level. For all that, The Tracker is basically a tense, character driven drama that relies on the craftsmanship of cinema; it would be a grave error to dump it in the bin of politically correct Australian filmmaking.

On the DVD, The Rolf de Heer interview by David Stratton (for the Movie Show, shot at the Venice Film festival) takes the place of de Heer’s narration, although it’s perhaps cut a little short at 6 minutes, and it would have been good to have seen at least one brief shot of David Stratton. The interview canvasses some of the areas of interest behind the filmmaker’s choices, but with a work like this we could be excused for wanting more, sir. Of special interest are comments about the film’s style and why de Heer chose to portray violence through Peter Coad’s paintings. Coad self-commentates a doco that was shot by his wife during filming, when the artist spent weeks on location, soaking up not only the landscape but the filming. There is also light relief in the gently humorous Out-Takes featurette, which is introduced and presented by Rolf De Heer. The first part could have been subtitled David’s Bloopers, and there are also some shots to show “how dedicated actors have to be,” as de Heer points out. In the awards and festivals section, there are three short pieces of footage shot at Venice, Melbourne and the if awards, as well as a text list of awards and festivals that honoured the film. The music clip and trailers (including one for Alexandra’s Project, which is the film de Heer made after The Tracker, and one for Walkabout (1971) also starring David Gulpilil) round out the extras. The menu presentation is well designed and the navigation is easy, if a bit slow, and the music looping behind the menus is an unforgettable, soul-stirring sampler from the soundtrack. You just couldn’t take seriously any DVD collection without this in it.

Famed for its visual prowess, Walkabout is Roeg’s favourite film, partly because it was made in tough physical conditions (which no doubt helped add to the spirituality of the endeavour), and partly because of the absence of “the technical paraphenalia,” making it “so less full of any sophistry in the process of making it.” Roeg fills the screen with images that are worth many thousands of words, and many of them are filled with WHY? Why does the man (Meillon) in a beaten up VW drive across the desert in a suit with a briefcase? Why does he suicide? Why are his children with him? 

Then there are deeper questions: why is western civilisation so primitive? Why is it so destructive and without feeling? Perhaps the biggest why is near the tragic end, when the young Aborigine (Gulpilil) tries desperately to communicate a profound sorrow without success to the two young white children. The collision of nature and westernised lifestyle provides Roeg’s jumping off point, editorially and visually, with some striking juxtapositioning with jump cuts, or close ups and montages. The film ‘accumulates’ as a series of pictorial sequences, many without words, which are destined to stay with the viewer for a long time. It is engrossing and intrigiung cinema for the lover of the artform.

Email this article


Buy it online - free delivery within Australia.

CAST: THE TRACKER: David Gulpilil, Gary Sweet, Damon Gameau WALKABOUT: Jenny Agguter, Luc Roeg (aka Lucien John), David Gulpilil, John Meillon.


RUNNING TIME: THE TRACKER: 98 minutes; WALKABOUT: 100 minutes

PRESENTATION: THE TRACKER: 2.35:1; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), 2.0 WALKABOUT: Letterboxed

SPECIAL FEATURES: THE TRACKER: Interviews (Rolf de Heer with David Stratton; Featurette of cast/crew); Out-takes; Peter Coad Featurette; Awards and Festivals; trailers; music clip; biographies WALKABOUT: Jenny Agutter and Nocholas Roeg Commentary; Cast & Director Bio; Trailers


DVD RELEASE: August 20, 2003

© Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2018