Whilst exploring the cultural clash between black and white Australia embodied in three children, Nicolas Roeg, in his first solo directorial film, inadvertently perpetuates 1960s Western thought about the death of Aboriginal culture. It was only two years prior to the making of Walkabout that the 1967 Referendum (necessary to make any Constitutional changes) empowered the Australian federal government to legislate on Aboriginal affairs.
Suffrage was granted to Aboriginals in 1962, and whilst it is undoubtedly true that they had suffered through the imposition of an imported white culture, it is not true that Aboriginal culture is dying. David Gulpilil, a tribal man from Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, at 16 years old, was chosen by Roeg to play the lead role in Walkabout. He went on to appear in numerous films, television programmes, and dance performances around the world, was awarded the Australia Medal in 1987, yet continues to live in Arnhem Land.
As a white Englishman, Roeg cannot escape a European viewpoint when looking at Australia. Linear reason is eschewed for the qualities embodied by Romanticism, a movement in European art, music, and literature in the late-18th and early-19th centuries, current in England at the time of colonizing Australia. Romanticism was characterized by “an emphasis on feeling and content rather than order and form, on the sublime, supernatural, and exotic.” These things, along with Roeg’s interest in colour, emotion, adventure, and fantasy, reflect the Romantic qualities found in this beautifully photographed film.
Related Link: All About Walkabout Movie