A British schoolgirl and her young brother escape to the outback where they meet another wandering soul in search of adulthood. Director Nicolas Roeg contrasts different cultures to reveal the naked truth: we’re all alike beneath our skin’s illusory variations.
The young protagonists remain nameless, prototypes of the self-absorbed and crumbling British Colonialism, children of a psychotic god. Taken to the desert, their father attempts a murder/suicide but only succeeds in the later respect; frightened, the children race towards the unknown, lost amid the jagged mountains haunted by a distant life as mysterious as their new environment. These are civilized children, raised in the steel and concrete valleys with no understanding of their predicament; they only plod ever onward, afraid to retrace their footsteps which lead to a ghostly father sheathed in flames. They fortuitously stumble upon a tiny oasis where they are discovered by a young Aboriginal boy, and together the three of them embark upon an adventure of self-discovery.
Roeg’s cinematography captures the beautifully dangerous Outback, the parched and scorched earth or the verdant grassland, a world inhabited by a host of uniquely adapted denizens, as these strangers must struggle in a strange land, a battle against both Nature and human nature to survive. Communication becomes a pantomime of deeds since language is a barrier to understanding though their needs are the same. The Aboriginal boy is a skilled hunter and Roeg magnificently films him killing and skinning his meals, the ubiquitous flies always buzzing around fresh blood. He cross-cuts with a modern butcher shop, comparing the act of slaughter for food, of potentially needless suffering, a lesson for those quick to judge. As the young girl and her brother are led to comparative safety, Roeg shows the taint of civilization upon this virginal landscape, raped by businessmen for self-fulfilling profit .
The magical journey ends with a danse macabre, a paved road leading towards salvation, and though she will live a life of static virtues, she will never return to the land of lost content. Final Grade: (B+)