Film Review: Tracks
Based on the beloved book of the same name by Robyn Davidson about her trek of 1700 miles across the Australian desert in 1977 from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean on foot accompanied by only four camels and her dog, Diggity. There are very few words for a film based on words. Instead the film captures the journey with stunning cinematography of vastly beautiful landscapes, sunsets, night skies, aboriginals, a very appealing quartet of camels, the loyal dog and the mesmerizing face of Mia Wasikowski. It is an insane idea which will take a minimum of 6 months to complete, and no one who knows her can fathom why she wants to do such a thing nor can they convince her to change her mind. The year she spends learning to train feral camels in order to acquire the ones she needs finally convinces everyone that she really means it. That she does not have the money to fund the trip is the reason that she reluctantly agrees to allow National Geographic photographer, Rick Smolen to chronicle the journey at one month intervals. Her reasons for the trip seem unclear, even to her. But she has become thoroughly disillusioned with her life in the city and has jettisoned most of her worldly possessions and is leaving behind whatever friends and family she has for a journey of discovery. She believes that being alone with nature and animals will liberate her soul and she will be truly happy. We learn through flashbacks that her early life was on a cattle ranch, that her father was an explorer, and that she had a traumatic permanent separation from her parents and their dog. So, one could assume that she is trying to recapture her truncated childhood and a time when she was happy and responsible to no one. And she wants to prove that an ordinary person can do an extraordinary thing.
Her taciturn composure is in direct contrast with Rick Smolen, played by Adam Driver (Lena Dunham’s Girls) as an awkward, overly garrulous and somewhat obnoxious intruder in her vision of her journey. His voyeurism trivializes the spiritual and personal nature of the whole enterprise. His monthly appearances during the trip are certainly jarring to the internal tone of the story. However, it becomes clear that he is really more than a self-serving careerist when he shows real concern for her safety and takes positive steps which probably saved her life. Eventually she develops a reluctant fondness and appreciation for him. He is the only person she has allowd to help her.
The hardships of the journey - extreme heat, relentless sun, wind storms, thirst, and dangerous animals - are intense and realistically depicted. Her stoic refusal to be deterred in the face of it all seems suicidal and unfathomable. Only once does she consider giving up and it is Rick who provides her with the wherewithal to continue.
It must be assumed that her misanthropic tendencies were worked out through the experience or she would not have agreed to share her story and write the book a few years later. It is a wonderful nature film with a compelling story line and a fascinating narrator. The film makes me want to read the book.