Saturday, 26 April 2014

REVIEW - TRACKS (JOHN CURRAN)


Tracks is an expedition into territory far better-traversed than the desert of Western Australia, and possibly not a well-advised one. But what little inspiration its talent behind the camera might muster in you, what's in front of the camera is unfailingly bewitching. Prosaic and unambitious this project may be - thus contrasting sharply with Robyn Davidson's personal project to walk across half a continent unaccompanied - but it's a dependable source of beauty, a postcard from the prettier side of the cinema, with postcard visuals courtesy of the medium's queen of the outback, Mandy Walker. There's no point in pondering, anyway, what might have been achieved had a more esoteric, and no less aesthetically-pleasing, path been taken, one that provided us with more insight into Robyn's psyche, since that's not what we've got. This is likely a film destined to reach an audience quite capable of discerning what has driven Davidson to undertake this most perilous pursuit anyway, and the film is benevolent enough in exploring her motivations. We are afforded glimpses of the modernities she has rejected in search of solitude, countered also with a slight sense of disdain for a soul so self-centered that she seeks to achieve some kind of superiority over her situation, and conquer the tribulations she encounters. It's woman vs. nature in a roundabout way. Marion Nelson's screenplay only indulges in brief suggestions as to Robyn's mentality, sparingly placed through Tracks like the water cans along her desert route. Their infrequency makes them sweeter to savour, that is, until John Curran's film reverts back to more primal concerns. That's probably the wisest route for him, again contrasting with his protagonist, though it's undeniable that it is Robyn's physical, not her emotional, predicament that takes the greatest toll on both her body and her mind, in the end. And in chronicling her journey, Tracks is no contrast at all - it's a filmed version of her written account through and through, NatGeo in narrative form, admirable, respectable, and a sight for sore eyes if ever there was one.