Warning: This story contains the name and images of a deceased Indigenous person. David Dalaithngu’s family has requested he be referred to as Dalaithngu and the name he was more commonly known by not be used.
Top: The 1971 movie poster. Above: David Dalaithngu, Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg in 'Walkabout' (1971)
During the COVID-19 lockdown, we revisited the three-part series Stories of Australian Cinema, by our second favourite film critic David Stratton (we miss you Margaret!) as he tells the story of Australian cinema, with a look at films that have captured the spirit of the nation with candour, emotion, humour, and originality.
Watching episode one of this insightful, three-part series, ‘Game Changers’, we were reminded of the remarkable little Aussie gem by Nicolas Roeg, Walkabout* and captured by how contemporary and relevant some of the themes were then (when we originally watched it) and now.
It was actually released in 1971, and it’s worth watching David’s fanning to it. He includes interviews with the actors reflecting back on their time on set and takes a look at star, David Dalaithngu’s incredible career – before watching the film again.
Shot almost entirely in the outback with Roeg’s direction and languid cinematography, the film is utterly stunning with mesmerising performances by the three young leads, Dalaithngu, who was just 16 at the time of his first film role and British actors Jenny Agutter, just 17 years old and a young Luc Roeg metaphorically playing the part of the ‘invaders’.
Walkabout’s cinematography is a love letter to the Australian desert-scape. It’s dark in places...
Walkabout’s cinematography is a love letter to the Australian desert-scape. It’s dark in places – so many of these Aussie outsider films are shadowy – but it is a critically-acclaimed masterpiece and well worth revisiting through our current lens. At its core, the film is about nature and our relationship with it.