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It's 1922; somewhere in Australia. When a Native Australian man is accused of murdering a white woman, three white men (The Fanatic, The Follower and The Veteran) are given the mission of capturing him with the help of an experienced Native Australian (The Tracker). So they start their quest in the outback, not knowing that their inner wrestles against and for racism will be more dangerous that the actual hunting for the accused. Written by
I wanted to like this film more than I did - I wanted to be able to rave about it unreservedly, but I couldn't.
First, I loved: David Gulpilil's performance. Such subtle contempt - almost as subtle as the way he actually tracks the landscape. This is an expression that should be seen more often in Australian cinema, just as there should be more opportunities for actors such as Gulpilil to shine. Secondly, I loved the paintings. At moments of transformation or violence (or transformation through violence - three words that sum up the history of the Australian continent) we were shown a still photograph of powerful, colorful paintings that were obviously (I hope!
I couldn't find a credit for them) by Aboriginal artists.
On the down side, the white actors were not allowed a great deal of subtlety, which was a real shame. In particular, Gary Sweet's character was so one dimensional as to be a little annoying, and I am not sure if this was the writing or the performance. Where was the fear behind the arrogance? Where was the hardness rather than blankness? I know that this was an opportunity for the story of The Tracker to shine, but that is no reason to not have well balanced performances (and writing) for the white characters also - or the story begins to lose its power and punch.
So, on balance, the performance of Gulpilil and the power of the story wins out (also probably motivated by the collective guilty conscience of all Australians) over the one dimensional white characters. A great companion piece to 'Rabbit Proof Fence'.
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