Tracks [Blu-ray] John Curran
Published Oct 07, 2014Sometimes it feels like the world is divided into two kinds of people: those who can leave everything behind, and those who can't. You occasionally meet the former in films such as Into the Wild — the true story of 24-year-old Californian Christopher McCandless, who gave his life savings to charity and trekked into the Alaskan wilderness. Such stories about living off the land and reading battered copies of Ralph Waldo Emerson's Nature for entertainment are intoxicating in their appeal, particularly for wary city dwellers. (At least some of us.)
In John Curran's Tracks, we meet a similar protagonist in Robyn Davidson, who in 1977, ventured across Western Australia at 26 with four camels and her dog. Her story is one that leaves some scratching their heads and others in raptures, but Tracks — based on Davidson's memoir — tells it without judgment, and presents a sublime journey marked by moments of serenity most of us will only ever experience through film.
When asked why she's making her trek, Davidson (superbly played by Australia-born Mia Wasikowska) doesn't have grand, existential motives. She just wants to be alone, she tells sceptical friends. Before setting off, Davidson spends two years at a camel farm raising money for the trip and acquiring camels of her own, as well as securing a sponsorship with National Geographic, which agrees on the basis that photographer Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) joins her for legs of the journey — an arrangement the shrewd Davidson is openly unhappy about.
Though she begins her 2,735 kilometre-route without reservation, Davidson's foolhardiness quickly falls away as she encounters the unexpected dangers of feral camels, losing equipment and lack of water, as well as a romantic entanglement with Smolan, who drives to meet her at several points along the route. Even in the middle of nowhere, it's hard to be truly alone.
In addition to stills and a trailer, the film's Blu-ray features include a number of interviews with the cast as well as Davidson, who expands on her motivations for the nine-month journey — "I felt I needed to be in a desert somewhere," she says — and Smolan, who discusses the pair's relationship. Their insights illustrate how closely Curran's vision aligned with true events, which is really a testament to the almost supernatural nature of Davidson's journey and the elegant film it inspired. Not everyone can put their transcendentalism into action, but it's nice to know some go the distance.