DVD/Blu Ray

Walkabout (12) Home Ents Review

Dir. Nicolas Roeg, UK/Australia, 1971, 100 mins

Cast: Jenny Agutter, Luc Roeg, David Gulpilil, John Meillon

Review by Colin Dibben

This brand new 4K restoration of the much-loved film makes me think that Nic Roeg was a good cinematographer but a deeply annoying editor, full of hippy bluster.

After their father tries to kill them, 16-year-old Mary and her younger brother Peter (Roeg) are left to fend for themselves in the inhospitable sun and desert of the outback. A young aboriginal (Gulpilil) takes them under his wing as they traverse a series of harsh, weird landscapes.

The three leads give performances that are still epochal, archetypal.

Think ‘bossy, frightened schoolgirl looking after younger sibling’ and chances are there’ll be some of Jenny Agutter’s performance here in your conception. The same is true for Luc Roeg’s Peter – ‘practical schoolboy with satchel who focuses on his toys’.

David Gulpilil’s performance is more difficult to label this way and is the strongest of the three for that reason. We can’t understand what he is saying but his worldview comes through bright and shining. In a film about shedding the bullshit of civilisation, his character has the least to shred – the actor’s background in dance allows him to act in a physically graceful manner that suggests joy in the face of fate.

The editing style that I find so annoying here is in many of Roeg’s films. It’s those quick edits of images and flashbacks that are supposed to be deeply significant. I just find them utterly meaningless and self-indulgent, a very psychedelic indulgence that looks more “of its era” as the decades flow by.

Perhaps we have also got used to entrancing, desolate images of the Australian outback. I can imagine that Roeg’s visual imagination here had more power once; but that’s a separate issue from the annoying quirks of editing.

If anything, the image flurries here are attempting to do something that the soundtrack does much better.

The soundtrack features themes by John Barry, added to and mashed up with electronica and other stuff by producer Phil Ramone. It’s a delirium of the senses which works much better than Roeg’s visual flourishes, which are by and large arpeggios of edited nature shots which seem to depict the cliché of ‘nature red in tooth and claw’.

This is a good 4K restoration. Extras include new interviews with Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg, audio commentary by Luc Roeg and David Thomson and an archive Q&A with Nic Roeg and Jenny Agutter.

Walkabout is on Blu-ray on 08 August 2022.