Sunday, September 21, 2014
DIRECTED BY JOHN CURRAN
STARRING MIA WASIKOWSKA
WITH ADAM DRIVER AS RICK SMOLAN
FEATURING FOUR CAMELS AND A DOG
AND THE AUSTRALIAN DESERT
Mia Wasikowska, an Australian actress, stars in the Australian epic film TRACKS, about Robyn Davidson's epic journey across the Australian desert with four camels and a dog, occasional visits from National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan, and assorted brief encounters with other people.
(Robyn’s phenomenal solo trek from Alice Springs to Uluru and on to the Indian Ocean saw her traverse nearly 2,000 miles of spectacular yet unforgiving Australian desert accompanied only by her loyal dog and four unpredictable camels.)
MIA WASIKOWSKA AND CAMELS
The acting is excellent: the dog, the camels, the two principal humans, the landscape, and all the supporting players.
It is always hard to consider -- in isolation -- a film that is about a book that is about a real event. (In this case, actually, there are at least two books, an essay, the book TRACKS by Robyn Davidson herself, who made the trip, and a photo book by Rick Smolan with text by Robyn.)
While it is perhaps easiest to concentrate only on the film, just noting where it may collide with the books or the real world, it does collide in a few important ways.
First, the film portrays the motivation for the trip in a very (too?) simple way. To me it seems to be saying she just got this (crazy) idea in her head to do something extreme that requires total self reliance -- with no backstory and no future plans. That seems hard to accept, especially since we know she went on to write about this, and then write more books. And most people have some kind of idea about the future, and a backstory.
Second, although the cinematography is very good, it is not spectacular (at least not in the relatively small-screen screening room in which I saw it). Part of the reason Robyn's story had resonance was the extraordinary photos of Rick Smolan. The film, while it uses the character of Smolan (played nicely in low key by Adam Driver) to keep the story moving, does not celebrate the visual representation of the experience.
Third, the film does celebrate the charismatic camels, who seem to be almost pussycats in their demeanor (except when males are horny). What I've previously heard about camels was mostly about their nasty disposition. (Are Australian camels different?)
Finally, though Mia does a great job of carrying the film (and even seems to bear a close resemblance to Robyn), whenever she kissed a camel or looked particularly haggard and sunburnt, I stopped thinking of her character and began wondering how the actress was feeling.
TRACKS manages to convey the difficulty and tedium of a marathon trek without ever becoming tedious (a trap that is hard to avoid -- think of Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff, which conveyed the enormous effort of a long, long wagon train cross-country journey by seeming to take forever itself.)
The collision of a film with its real life origins and literary sources certainly helps generate its resonance.
That said, returning to the film itself, TRACKS is a well-told, well acted story of an epic adventure.
ADAM DRIVER AND MIA WASIKOWSKA
TRACKS may be inspirational to many; and even more, it should be an absolute delight to anyone who loves camels and dogs, travel, solitude, and achieving personal goals.
TRACKS - WIKIPEDIA
MIA WASIKOWSKA - WIKIPEDIA
MIA WASIKOWSKA - IMDB
ROBYN DAVIDSON - WIKIPEDIA
RICK SMOLAN - WIKIPEDIA
RICK SMOLAN ON AMAZON