An event I had been looking forward to for quite some time was a preview screening of the Australian semi-biographical film Tracks. The night encapsulated much discussion of the adaptation and a special appearance by the author of the basis novel Tracks and the original protagonist, Robyn Davidson, herself along with photographer, Rick Smolan. An interesting aspect of the night was the discussion of the idea and basis of adaptations - of how closely a filmmaker can translate a story or series of events from page to screen. An eloquent speaker, Robyn Davidson emphasised the belief of her experience to be completely segregated from that of the one presented in the film. This being said, she neglected not to articulate just how seamless and singularly remarkable she found the film to be.
Tracks tells the story of a driven, lost young woman who abandons all social conventions and instead seeks to cross the deserts of Western Australia - a distance of 1,700 miles. She spends months prior searching and working for funds and training camels. Eventually finding a means for her personal odyssey in media, she embarks on her journey with a promise, on her part, of several meet-ups with a photographer along the way and an appearance in The National Geographic.
One of my favourite films of all time and one which I refer to constantly is the other-wordly vision of spirit and idealism that is Into The Wild. Upon viewing Tracks I constantly and subconsciously drew up comparisons between the two - finding similarities to exist in both their strengths - in both their content and structure. I found great likeness to exist between the poetic cultures. Both films entail a certain fascination with the unruly and untamed, with the conditions of the wild, of anything but society, of civilisations, of cities, of crowds. It is that perception of the world pressing in on you and so the first call of instinct is simply to escape and find solace in isolation and thus, peace.
Both Christopher McCandless and Robyn Davidson were portrayed to harbour a sort of abhorrence and aversion to society - its standards, expectations and conformities. They make this type of obsurd idealism sound incredibly appealing, justified and somewhat sensical. A certain feature of these films that I truly admire is the subtle and appropriate approach to the "biographical genre". The journey is the present, and the reasons and incentives for these pilgrimages come in the form of the past. Every flashback, every reference to personal history is skilfully presented. Fluff is rare and everything that needs to be there is there.
I truly appreciated the cinematography in this film. What I really admired and enjoyed was how so well the score and sound-mixing complemented the cinematography and vis versa. The score was particularly distinctive to me as I found it to be somewhat alive - it was powerfully quiet yet non-obstructive which happens much too often in modern cinema. Often we see extreme long shots - emphasising space and silence, what our protagonist found most appealing about the desert.
The camera angles for the flashbacks were almost always initially oblique - perhaps in representation of just how unstable Davidson's life as a child was. Most distinctively did Tracks find significance in connecting its technical aspects with its thematic material.
Mia Wasikowski really shone through in her depiction of a highly confused yet determinately confident person. Her vulnerability leaks through her countenance only very occasionally in an astute and subdued manner - quality acting right there. Her narration is mostly smooth and only sometimes slightly clumsy and unnecessarily wordy. Although nowhere near as perfected as the narration found in Into The Wild by a character that makes only a short appearance, I have always been particularly critical and harsh when it comes to voice-over accounts.
What must be mentioned is that Tracks is something of an all-encompassing yet specific depiction of one thing, one person. We revel in the achievement of one persons experiences and tribulations and forget our own - which is really all you can ask from film.