The harshness and rugged beauty of the Australian desert is brilliantly shot in the amazing 'Tracks' from John Curran, staring Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver. The true story of Robyn Davidson's bestselling 1980 novel 'Tracks' and her journey walking from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean accompanied by four camels and a pet dog is a powerful story of her determination to pursue her dream.
I absolutely loved this film and it is now my favourite for 2014 - I know its only April, so its early days, but I was enthralled with the simplicity of the story and beauty of my homeland. Mia is excellent as Robyn, the quiet young woman who having researched the trip knows that the journey will be possible with camels, to carry things, but first she has to learn how to manage and look after the camels.
She heads to the dusty outback town of Alice Springs in 1977, with just her pet dog Diggity and $6. It took 2 years of working with camels and saving up before Robyn could start her trip. She eventually wrote to National Geographic asking them to sponsor the journey, and that is where Rick Smolan (Adam Driver) comes in - they only agreed to sponsor her if they could send along a photographer. He is wonderful in his charmingly goofy way, as the New Yorker sent along to shoot the story. A lot of the cinematography is inspired by the photos Smolan took. He meets up with Robyn at intervals along her 1700 mile journey - which ended up taking 9 months. Robyn has a profound respect for the Aboriginal people she meets along the way, spending time staying with them at their camp sites, and even being accompanied by an elder 'Mr Eddy' (Rolley Mintuma) on part of her journey through sacred lands. It is forbidden for women to walk through sacred lands unless with an elder male.
There were attempts in the 80's & 90's to turn Tracks into a feature, and at one point Julia Roberts was down to star in the film - I am so glad they waited till Mia could sign on. At the Q&A after the screening we were lucky enough to hear from Robyn Davidson, and she said that having seen Mia in 'In Treatment', she felt that she was perfect for the role. Davidson was also keen to have the film done by an independent director and not to let Hollywood ruin the story. Six months after her book was released, Sydney Pollack contacted her and said 'Your not going to like what I'm going to do to your book'. So glad she waited for Curran. Davidson and Mia met up before shooting started and spent two weeks in the outback together, so Davidson could help her get used to the camels and the bush. People don't normally associate camels with Australia, but there are now over 10,000 wild camels roaming the bush. They were brought over by the early settlers in the 1850's, along with their Afghan handlers to assist in transporting food and materials whilst the telegraph and railway system was set up in rural Australia.
Most people thought Davidson was crazy to undertake such a long journey though the harsh outback, but watching the film you come to understand why she had the desire to do it, and how it was almost like a kind of therapy for her. It certainly made me want to escape from the modern world and explore.
Tracks will be out in cinemas in the UK from Friday 25th April.