Walkabout is a 1971 British film set in Australia, directed by Nicolas Roeg and starring Jenny Agutter, Luc Roeg (Nicolas' son, here credited as Lucien John), and David Gulpilil.An Australian man takes his teenage daughter and much younger son (Agutter and Luc Roeg) out into the Australian outback for a picnic. He drives until his car runs out of gas. As the little boy is playing with his toys and the girl is setting up the picnic blanket, the father, who has been reading work papers, suddenly pulls out a pistol and starts shooting at his kids. After the daughter takes the little boy and hides behind some rocks, the father sets the car on fire and then kills himself.The girl leads her little brother on a hike through the desert. In short order they are in desperate straits, with the girl forced to carry her little brother while both suffer from dehydration. They find a small watering hole and drink, but the next morning the water has dried up. Unable to think of anything else, the girl elects to wait at the watering hole. They appear to be doomed to die of thirst until they are met by an Aborigine teenaged boy (Gulpilil) on a walkabout. The boy saves their lives, drawing water from under the ground with a reed, and then takes them along with him for his walkabout through the outback.The movie gets even weirder from there. Has a place on the Roger Ebert Great Movies List.
Early in the film the mother is seen preparing lunch for the family in the apartment. In the last scene the girl, who is older and now married, is preparing a meal in the same apartment.
The first line of dialogue is, oddly enough, in French: "Faitex vos jeux, messieurs, 'dames, s'il vous plait"—a roulette croupier saying "Ladies, gentlemen, place your bets please." Then at the very end of the film, after the credits have rolled, the phrase "rien ne va plus"—"no more bets"—pops up on the screen.
Contrast Montage: The film's central motif. The very first shot shows a natural rock wall, and then cuts to a shot of a brick wall. The scene where the Aborigine boy butchers his kill is intercut with a white butcher cutting up some meat. The scene where the boy and girl climb the tree is intercut with a group of Aborigines climbing over the father's burnt-out car.
The father kills himself, for no obvious reason, although the Thousand-Yard Stare he often displays hints at some disturbance in his life.
The Aborigine boy hangs himself. Whether that's due to the girl rejecting his courtship dance, or the sight of the white hunters killing the buffalo, or both, is not clear.
Dull Surprise: The girl is quick to hide but otherwise seems unaffected when her father whips out a gun and starts shooting. She is similarly unmoved when she finds the Aborigine boy hanging from a tree.
Egomaniac Hunter: Two white men in a jeep nearly run over the Aborigine, before they use a high-powered rifle to shoot a buffalo. They then leave the buffalo there to rot.
Fanservice: Jenny Agutter's prolonged nude scene in which her character goes skinny-dipping.
Going Native: The girl is seemingly tempted to do this, but she winds up turning her back on the Aborigine boy. In the last scene, when she is back home years later and her husband is blabbering about work, she remembers an innocent swim with her brother and the Aborigine.
One scene shows a group of scientists setting up some weather balloons in the desert. The male crewmembers gawk at the one female scientist. Nothing else happens, other than the girl and boy later stumbling across the weather balloon, which has no impact on their story at all.
Another scene shows a little shop in the outback where whites and aboriginals are making cheesy plaster statues, presumably for tourists. This also has no impact on the rest of the story.
When the boy is yammering on telling some story, the screen shows pages turning in a book.
At one point when the boy is staring off into space, the film superimposes a closeup—of his face as he stares off into space.
Many close-ups of the reptiles and bugs that populate the outback. The closeup of the dead lizards the Aborigine boy has tied to his loincloth, covered in flies, stands out.
Why are the boy and girl still wearing their school uniforms when they go out for a picnic?
Male Gaze: The scientists fixing the weather balloons steal glances up the skirt and down the shirt of the female scientist.
Match Cut: From a pair of hunters draining the blood from a buffalo to the girl taking water from a faucet.
Mating Dance: A literal example, apparently, in which the Aborigine boy takes off his loincloth, elaborately paints himself, and dances for the girl, who is inside an abandoned house. When she rejects him, by shutting the door and hiding within the house, he kills himself.
Motifs: Many shots of the flora and fauna of the desert. Many shots of walls and doors, likely symbolizing the communication barrier between the Aborigine boy and the girl.
The Aborigine boy is largely shown as this, although there is one scene that hints at a different interpretation. At one point during their trek through the desert, the three are within short walking distance of a white settlement. The Aborigine boy even greets a white woman, who sees the girl and boy on the other side of the ridge. The girl and boy never see either the white woman or the settlement, and the boy does not show it to them. This scene is subverted later, however, when the Aborigine shows the boy the paved road that eventually leads the girl and boy to civilization.
As one might expect with a film like this, when Western civilization is compared to Aboriginal life, the former comes off worse. It is worth noting that while the Aborigine boy saves the lives of the brother and sister and takes them with him across the desert, the first white person they finally find (a watchman at an abandoned mine) is completely uninterested in helping them.
Repeat Cut: The shot where the father shoots himself is shown three times from three different angles. Later, the shot where the hunters kill the buffalo is shot multiple times, including once in reverse.
Shout-Out: At the end a narrator reads Poem 40 from A.E. Houseman's A Shropshire Lad, which is about remembering a pastoral scene from one's youth that one can't return to.
Skinnydipping: Jenny Agutter's swim, as noted above under Fanservice. Quite a long scene. The last shot of the film is the girl's memory (or fantasy?) of her, her brother, and the Aborigine boy all skinny dipping together.
Single Tear: The Aborigine boy after seeing the killing of the buffalo.