I’ll say this for Nicholas Roeg: the man can shoot a sunset. The most beautiful sequences in Walkabout feature dazzling shades of reds and oranges across the sky: the shot to the left is a prime example. Roeg films them in foregrounds, backgrounds, and from all different angles. The aforementioned colors are used in several strong scenes involving raging fire as well. In fact, his entire use of natural lighting is masterful. Unfortunately, Roeg’s luscious color palette is easily the most engrossing thing about Walkabout, which focuses on a brother and sister stranded in the outback under horrifying circumstances. Unequipped to battle the wilderness—an early moment shows the girl (played by Jenny Agutter; no actual name is given for any of the major characters) in an airy home with ocean views and all the comforts of society, emphasizing her dependence on modern conveniences—the boy and girl are close to expiring until they meet the black boy, an aborigine on a walkabout. Forming a non-verbal friendship—they don’t understand a word of each other’s languages, other than “water” after some effort—the black boy toughens them up and helps get them back to the real world. Roeg’s messages are clear enough: the awesome power of nature (every other scene appears to involve cuts to small animals of some kind), and how technological ingenuity breeds an unhealthy reliance. But Walkabout, despite an interesting premise and a skilled director, rarely spoke to me. Herzog’s approach to the first of the above themes (Aguirre, etc) is much more dynamic, and Roeg’s cinematography, while beautiful, borders on excessive and repetitive much of the time. The unspoken relationship between the children and the black boy is pretty dull, and Roeg’s editing feels pretentious at times, particularly the rapid-fire cuts from primal techniques (spearing a kangaroo, for instance) to chopping meat in a kitchen. The overt symbolism hampers a subject and approach that could have led to a sublime result.

42/100