The marvelous Mia Wasikowska is carving out quite a remarkable career overseas but back on home turf that career seems to magnify. Distinguishing herself as a director for her segment in TIM WINTON’S THE TURNING, just released on DVD through Madman, she now stars in the long gestating screen adaptation of TRACKS (M), playing the indefatigable Robyn Davidson who dropped into Alice Springs, 1975, with the idea of crossing the desert, a two and half thousand kilometres odyssey west from the dead heart to the Indian ocean.
Robyn is happiest without humans, holing up with Diggity, her loyal canine companion, but she knows she needs transport and funds. The former comes in the shape of four wild camels that she earns through months of backbreaking labour first with a hard Austrian émigré and camel breeder, Kurt Posel portrayed by Rainer Bock, then with the Afghani camel farmer Sallay Mahomet played by John Flaus.
Flaus is flawless as Sallay, subtle, understated, a superb characterisation from one of Australia’s best thesps.
Funds are forthcoming from photographer Rick Smolan portrayed by Adam Driver, who helps her raise financing for her journey through National Geographic magazine in exchange for a few shoots along the way. It’s quite a departure for Driver whose recent roles have been in the excellent Frances Ha and Inside Llewyn Davis.
A fortunate encounter with a respected Aboriginal Elder, Mr Eddy playfully played by Rolley Mintuma, sees Robyn find an invaluable guide to her environment. Despite her very limited knowledge of his language, Pitjantjatjara, Robyn learns a lot from Mr Eddy’s expert knowledge of the area and his traditions, and they develop a friendship and a connection which far transcends their language barrier.
Rolley Mintuma injects a lot of, literally, black humour into the film, and is a delight. Serendipitously, Rolley comes from the same area of Australia as the real Mr Eddy. Rolley is from the area near Uluru, and knows Mr Eddy’s family. Like Mr Eddy, Rolley is a respected Elder and his first language is Pitjantjatjara.
Another performance of note is Tim Rogers, former front-man of You Am I, as humpy hermit Grendle.
Edwin Hodgeman and Carol Burns play a plucky outback couple who give Robyn much needed respite and Fiona Press impresses as an Alice publican.
But it’s Mia’s movie, displaying a flintiness that matches the terrain, a tenacious interior gumption that’s as expansive as the great exterior she traverses.
Cinematographer Mandy Walker shoots the landscape and locations, so integral to this story of the interior, both of the country and the human, on anamorphic 35mm film, and the result is awesome. Director John Curran has drawn a cracker cast and crew not to mention an impressive pack of camels to make one of the most visually arresting films of the year.
At the end of another outstanding year for the arts in Sydney, on Wednesday 31st December 2014, Sydney Arts Guide announced its 2014 awards in Stage and Screen categories:-