Nicolas Roeg toys with themes of abandonment and isolation often in his films. The Man Who Fell to Earth had an alien literally isolated from their own planet, attempting to acclimatise to such a rapidly changing Earth. Adapting to the wilder, sudden changes is a topic Roeg explores often, and well. He does so in Walkabout, but turns his attention more to that of localised isolation, rather than extra-terrestrial troubles. His tale of two children surviving in the wild after narrowly avoiding a horrible murder-suicide grasps at how we may feel as we are thrust into the deep end of life without any choice or say in the matter.
Here, two children (played by Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg), are thrust into the heart of the Outback. They are products of the city. Survival for them depends on bus routes and bustling streets, not barren wastelands and bug-infested surroundings. Clearly at a loss, it is either Mother Nature or fate that is going to nurture or neutralise such innocent beings. There are a great many theories about what Walkabout represents, and the generally accepted notion of these characters turning their backs on society, not out of choice but accidentally, settles well with me. They are not choosing to leave their lives behind, by all means, they appear to be quite comfortable in the day-to-day rumblings, but it is the lack of real background that allows Roeg to explore the deeper idea of actually disengaging with the world around us.
Under the guise of a picnic, a father takes his children to the middle of nowhere. It is the security of the family that is utilised as the biggest thrill and horror of all, for the last person we would ever imagine to inflict harm on us is someone we are born loving. Even then, the boy is shielded from the harsher realities. The girl hides him from the suicide of their father, cares for him with food, and even when they pair up with the Aboriginal boy, they are sharing the responsibilities of protecting a young soul. Roeg explores how hard it must be to keep our innocence intact. Sooner or later, the reality crushes that hope, but to cling onto it for as long as you can is such a precious ideal, one that Walkabout managed to explore supremely well over the course of its 100 minutes.
Now more than ever, there is a sense that the train of life has no breaks. I certainly feel that way. We’re like sharks. If we stop moving, we perish. That means, time and time again, we must leap into the unknown. Sometimes we are pushed. We have no say in the matter. Other times, we can test the waters, get a feel for our surroundings, and acclimatise with comfort. There are moments in all our lives where Walkabout will ring true, echoing distantly in the back of our minds, and as the bells grow louder and clang with greater fear, it is worth remembering that they soon subside. Walkabout represents that with its tale of survival, which rips the childhood right out of the kids that are unlucky enough to have been paired with awful parents and harsh surroundings. Some of us are, I am not, but I still fear the bells.