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Superb. Original. Captivating. Finally,this important but dark part of Australia's history has been dealt with cinematically in a thorough and intelligent way.
burpboy15 August 2002
I left this brilliant film being excited and proud to be an aspiring Australian film-maker. What a film experience. Surely this is one of the great Australian films, certainly of this current year and without doubt for a long time. I say this film made me feel proud but really, as I was sitting after the film enjoying the warm sunshine and the beauty of the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour, I was quite ashamed and saddened to be an Australian. The film deals with a very dark and still repressed area of Australian history that goes to the very heart of what it means to be an Australian, what out heritage is and what our role is in relation to this heritage. Rather than give a synopsis (they are always so boring) of how the film deals with these issues, I would just simply implore everyone everywhere (not just Australians) to see this film. I really believe the film has importance and resonance for all people, apart from its issues and meaning I think the film is simply film-making of the highest calibre. Bold, creative, subtle at times as well as appropriately disturbing and unsettling when it needs to be. Rolf De Heer has surely made his best film, a film to make you stand up and take notice of his ability. Visually beautiful (what an amazing country we have) and the use of Aboriginal singer Archie Roach's haunting songs is inspired and integral to the film's impact. I have to make special mention of the actors. Basically the film is a four-hander with Grant Page, Gary Sweet, Damon Gameau and David Gulpill giving outstanding performances. Particularly Sweet, giving authority and complexity to a unlikeable role that Australians would be not used to seeing after his television appearances. Can I also reserve a particular rave for Damon Gameau who plays the role of the young follower. Gameau, just out of drama school, is a real find. The Australian press have not given him the praise that he deserves and acknowledged the exceptional way he manages to convincingly capture the complicated shifts in the arc of his character's journey. For me at the end of the film, Gulpill and Gameau together onscreen deliver the film's final moments with such sensitivity and beautiful chemistry that you can't help but be incredibly moved.

Finally I want to say that above all, at the centre of the story, David Gulpill is just extraordinary (one interviewer described him as our biggest Aboriginal movie star, certainly his performance has to be the highlight of his long and significant career.)You feel everything this film has to say, every part of its journey in his performance. You feel the injustice, the horror, the abuse, the loss of culture and identity. Conclusively, you feel for real that being an Australian means acknowledging that our country, as we now know it, was founded on the invasion and near-obliteration of a pre-existing people and their culture.
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A tremendously memorable film!
Tim Johnson6 November 2005
I watched this wonderful film last night on television after having, unfortunately, missed it during its house release several years ago. Even though it would have been far better to see the beautiful cinematography on the big screen I was still moved and highly impressed with this historically insightful look under the carpet of our history.

It is an interesting coincidence that I watched The Proposition several days ago and was able to watch The Tracker last night-both films, although separated by roughly fifty years, still circle the same historical period in that they both deal with Australia's adolescence and it is this historical backdrop that binds these films together in my mind.

If a film returns to my thoughts after I have watched it, regardless of the geographical setting or the chronological period, that film is successful by my standards and if you wakeup the next morning replaying scenes of the film then it certainly is a winner-that is exactly what happened this morning. De Heer's script and direction created a haunting movie. The subtlety of the nuances made for a deeply intellectual journey through the tracks of these different people embroiled in activities beyond their understanding. Is this the paradigm of human existence? De Heer is to be congratulated for writing a scrip dealing with historical topics generally bypassed by commercial film makers and then directing that film with such sensitivity and understanding. It is rare to see a film that paints such a critical view of the relationship of the Aboriginal people and the close-mindedness of the Anglo settlers during that first century of contact. The definitive film about this contact has yet to be made and I for one anxiously await its production. We know so little, even if we make a concerted effort to locate the sources, about this early period of racial interaction. In the history of the world has there been such a diametrically antagonistic confrontation between peoples? The accuracy of this contact drama seems to have been lost because of the very nature of the discontinuity between these peoples. De Heer attempted to redress this lack of information and due to the brilliance of his insights, as well as the brilliance of the cast, we the audience are the better for having watched their work.
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Brilliantly written and directed by Rolf de Heer
YesterdaysJam20 February 2004
Into a painted landscape come four men. Three policemen on horseback, and a native tracker leading them on foot. They are chasing another native, accused of murder, who is occasionally glimpsed in the distance. As they trek further into the wilderness, the fugitive remains elusive, and the brutal aggression of the expedition leader turns the mission sour.

Brilliantly written and directed by Rolf de Heer, this is a great film. Performances by the two main protagonists, David Gulpilil as the Tracker, and Gary Sweet as the Fanatic, are excellent. And the stark beauty of the Australian outback has never been captured so lovingly on film.
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swillsqueal27 May 2007
If you've ever wondered why Aboriginal people in Australia want an official apology from the head of government, see this film. They haven't gotten one yet. Maybe later--time moves slowly for the oppressed. Economically savvy, rich conservatives will not want to hear an official State apology rendered. Why? Because, they believe that the "sorry" campaign is a ploy to hit the Austalian Federal Government with a plethora of expensive lawsuits. Rank and file social conservatives, who make up about 10% of the population, just think that Aboriginals should be happy that they've gotten citizenship in "the Lucky Country" and keep their mouths shut.

Each character in "The Tracker" is a metaphor for prevailing historically based and continuing attitudes between the indigenous people of Australia and European settlers. Not only that, but within the dialogues and actions in "The Tracker", one can see the still existing fundamental conflict between European legal traditions and those of peoples who settled Australia some 60,000 years ago. By the end of the film, one can discern the outlines of a lasting reconciliation in Australia based on mutual respect between human beings.

If your'e not already familiar, "The Tracker" will show you what most of the Australian interior looks like. It's hot, red, dry and largely empty. Yet, if you slow down and focus your eyes, there is much more to the land than you might have thought. A good tracker could show you how large a human footprint on this natural setting of the Earth can be. A good tracker can also show you the wisdom inherent in patience and respect.

David Gulpilil plays this tracker and he steals the movie. Rolf de Heer's writing and direction in this film is to be applauded. In fact, I have yet to see a bad film come out of Rolf de Heer's directing. His "Ten Canoes" should have won greater recognition in 2006. Gary Sweet as the racist fanatic was convincing. Overflowing with hypocritical Christian piety, Sweet made me feel sick to be identified as "white". You could almost hear him saying, "We had to kill the blacks in order to save them." Damon Gameau, as the follower, played his role with wooden innocence. Grant Page as the apolitical, amoral veteran was at his best after he took a spear. But, automatons are like that.
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A beautiful and powerful film
Howard Schumann5 December 2005
In 2002, Philip Noyce's Rabbit-Proof Fence attacked the Australian government's policy of forcibly removing mixed race Aborigines from their families, sending them to government camps to be sold as servants, converted to Christianity, and eventually assimilated into white society. Just released on DVD and set six years earlier in 1922, Australian Indie director Rolf de Heer's The Tracker is a parable that also explores racism in Australia but on an even darker level, reflecting, according to de Heer, the practices and attitudes of that era towards the Aboriginal people. As three white men and an Aboriginal tracker set out on horseback to search for a black fugitive (Noel Wilton) accused of killing a white woman, the search through the stunning landscape of the Flinders Ranges becomes an exercise in savagery that raises questions about genocide.

The travelers in the search party are nameless and referred to only as The Fanatic (Gary Sweet), The Follower (Damon Gameau), and The Veteran (stuntman Grant Page). They are characters who are both individuals and archetypes who seem to represent racial discrimination and its passive acceptance. The Fanatic is the pompous police officer who is shown as repulsively intolerant of blacks and an individual that will not hesitate to kill. The Follower is his young and innocent assistant who is startled by The Fanatic's relentless racism yet too inexperienced to make a move. The Veteran is an old timer who will not challenge authority.

In The Tracker, De Heer employs two effective and original touches. One is the use of ten original songs composed by Graham Tardif, with lyrics by de Heer, and performed by Archie Roach, an Aboriginal singer who sounds like Tom Waits. Like the Neil Young score in Jim Jarmusch's subversive Western, Dead Man, the continual music can be intrusive but it creates a mood of solemnity. In another device, de Heer cuts away from scenes of violence to show still shots of Peter Coad paintings done in a simple primitive style. The raw emotion of Roach's songs and Coad's expressive artwork establish a record of the horror and allow us to relate to the mythic quality of the drama.

The Tracker plays the part of a fool saying to the officer "Yes, Boss. Okay Boss" yet, like Feste in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, he is a knowing fool, a man of humor and irony and an instinctive intelligence about the natural world, its spirits and its sacred places. When The Fanatic tells him to show The Follower the signs he is following, he points to one stone in a field of thousands saying, "Dis stone in the wrong place, belong over here", underneath almost dry, he gone couple of hours." revealing knowledge of the place of every stone. We know that The Tracker, though outwardly subservient, is the one who is really in charge and that the search party would be lost without him. As The Fanatic forces The Follower and The Veteran to participate in murder, the groundwork is laid for revenge and retribution.

The Tracker is a beautiful and powerful film that bears witness to the time when there was no talk of Aboriginal reconciliation and no hope for it. Damon Gameau shows great promise as the young man who has developed that rare quality called conscience and we identify with his strength of character. The highlight performance of the film, however, is that of charismatic native actor David Gulpilul. He portrays a man of simple dignity, not a "noble savage" or a faithful "Jacky Jacky" figure necessary to white dominance of the frontier but simply a man who has a profound sense of the world around him. Through him de Heer allows us to glimpse the possibility of establishing a true multi-racial society where people respect each other as equals.
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stunning performance by Gulpilil
meredithconnie9 May 2007
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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A surprise
uhura14 January 2003
I stumbled onto this movie during the Palm Springs International Film Festival. When I noticed folks lined up outside the theatre an hour before the movie, I thought I'd join them. What a surprise! The haunting closeups and aerial views of Australia's outback serve to intensify the interactions of the characters. The music can, and does, appear overpowering at times, but along with an ocasionally inserted "painting", helps dramatize aborigine culture, a key to the film's intent. If you're tired of the usual american formulaic movie, but aren't into the hassle of reading subtitles, this may be for you.
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Strong film, not the director's best
YesYesNo16 February 2006
As far as Western films go, the Tracker is nothing groundbreaking or particularly accomplished. I'd compare it to Anthony Mann's Naked Spur, another beautiful looking wilderness bounty-hunter film with a primary interest in psychological tension between morally ambiguous characters. Like Naked Spur, there is a trickster figure, an innocent, a veteran trailblazer, and a sadistic military figure. There is plenty of intrigue between characters as new situations arise, but The Tracker lacks the complexity of the screenplay thanks to the director's political heavy-handedness. Gary Sweet's character is not convincing or particularly well developed, as his simplistically evil nature makes him highly predictable and almost comedic. While I enjoyed the music on its own merits, I agree with another commenter that it leaves little room for the viewer to come to his own conclusions about the characters.

On the other hand, there are some great moments, such as the Tracker's improvised trial of the Fanatic, which causes one question how capital punishment becomes perceived as legitimate. The Tracker's adoption of white traditions and religious rites causes us to view him differently than we would otherwise. The circumstances of the Fanatic's dependence upon the Tracker and the Tracker's dependence upon the mercy of the Fanatic create an intrigue that is again reminiscent of the Naked Spur. Aided by the beautiful scenery of the outback, the cinematography is very nice, and the editing is distinctive as the film maintains a slower pace with spacious musical and visual interludes that are sometimes kitschy but occasionally effective. Overall, this was I film that I thoroughly enjoyed, even if the screenplay wasn't as powerful as I had hoped.
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Slow but Unforgettable
ali-3712 June 2008
This was a DVD rental that took me completely by surprise. The story of three Australians using an aborigine tracker to hunt for a aborigine man wanted for raping and killing a woman unwinds slowly as they cross the wilderness. Untimately it's about racism and the head soldier is a racist who treats the tracker like he's not human. He kills innocent natives after questioning them about the fugitive's whereabouts. It's the tracker's performance, however,that steals the film. I recognized him from the movie Walkabout when he was just a boy. Now he's a man in his fifties, playing the fool in the film but grinning knowingly at the events that challenge the hunt. Fortunately, not all the white men are portrayed as evil. I found myself thinking about this film days later. Truly remarkable film-making.
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Deserved winner of Australian Film Institute Best Actor category 2002
roland-sinn19 August 2003
We Australians have a lot of issues to deal with, especially when it comes to reconciliation between the Aboriginal owners of Australia and Anglo settlers. The issues are difficult to come to terms with because there's been so much blood spilt in the past.

On the outset of The Tracker, my viewing partner commented: ‘This film is going to be very difficult to watch.' He said this because it was obvious that there were going to be depictions of Aboriginals being mistreated by white folk. Yes, abuse and slaughter were depicted, but in an exceptionally sensitive manner that was non-confronting yet extremely effective.

The Tracker is a very unusual film. It is languid and leisurely paced, very reminiscent of 70's Australian cinema. A modern musical score features strongly throughout the story and constantly pushes the film towards the brink of ‘Musical', though fortunately Tracker doesn't cross that brink.

After the first 30 minutes, I grew bored. After 40 minutes however, I felt in tune with the film and began to find it beautiful. After a slow start, Tracker becomes a well crafted character study of men from another age with very different perspectives to modern Australians.

I don't know how North American audiences will take to The Tracker because it is a film made for Australians to teach us about aspects of our past which are uncomfortable to face up to, let alone deal with.

David Gulpilil , who plays the title role, deservedly won the 2002 AFI best actor award. He gives a tightly controlled performance of a sympathetic yet mysterious character who suffers from the same human flaws as the rest of us.

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A fantastic movie
ted_e_w8 September 2002
This movie had me from the beginning. The plot is very simple but incredibly deep. I think it was ingenious not to give any of the characters names, as they're just representations of certain types of people from that point in Australian history. It was also very clever to use paintings at various points instead of just blatantly showing what went on. The acting was fantastic, especially David Gulpilil (who is always a treat to watch) and Gary Sweet. Add in the fabulous music and the gorgeous outback scenery, and this movie is--I have to say it--a Must See.
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Stunning visuals
damirski23 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The Australian landscape and brilliant use of the light made this a stunning movie to look at. I thought the use of art work to depict the violent scenes worked very well but the soundtrack was a bit too much sometimes. One Night The Moon which came out about the same time does the musical thing much better. It is also hard not to compare this movie to Walkabout, I found that Walkabout was much more atmospheric and made a lasting impression on me, only time will tell if The Tracker does the same (De Heers's Bad Boy Bubby certainly made a lasting impression on me).

As for the plot, it was good but, the ending was too simplistic for my liking, it gave it a bit of a 'spaghetti western' feel. I didn't think Gary Sweet was right for this role or it might have been that the dialog wasn't quite right for the period portrayed. Gary Sweet was much better in De Heer's movie 'Alexandra's Project'.

Overall, a very good movie with a few flaws but still a 'must see'.
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Tracking Manifest Destiny
Lechuguilla15 May 2006
It gets off to a slow start. On horseback in the Australian desert, three white men representing officialdom follow close behind an aboriginal man on foot, "tracking" another aborigine wanted for killing a white woman. There's no character development, no explanations, no music ... just four men plodding along in silence.

But the plot gradually picks up as the four men encounter frustrations and problems along the way. This film is unusual in that, from start to finish, it takes place entirely outdoors. The stunning cinematography not only captures the stark beauty of a rugged and unforgiving land, but also creates some memorable cinematic art, most notably the profile of a man, whose corpse dangles in the wind against the background of a bright yellow sun.

For a film about "tracking", the script has little to say about real life tracking skills. At one point the tracker stoops down to notice one small rock that has apparently been moved. The tracker then uses this stone to conclude that the stalked man has recently been here. But how does the tracker know the rock's disturbance was the result of the wanted man, rather than some passing wild animal, or a local aborigine? The tracker doesn't explain, and his three white boss men don't ask.

But the film is not really about "tracking". It's about politics and philosophy. The lead white man is repulsive in his violence and racism. He whips and chains the tracker, and verbally abuses him. Yet, to accomplish his mission, the boss man needs the tracker. The film's theme thus centers on how imperialistic, militant whites overpower natives of a country to get what the whites want, with the help of guns, of course. It's a frequent theme throughout human history, and in its application to American history it is known as "manifest destiny".

Reinforcing this theme is the film's haunting soundtrack. I especially liked the visceral "All Men Choose The Path They Walk". The music adds emotional and philosophic depth to the story, as do aboriginal drawings, or sketches, that figuratively show what is happening, when the film's plot turns violent. The film's casting and acting are fine. David Gulpilil is himself an aborigine, and does a good job as the tracker.

This is an unusual film in that there is not one single scene that takes place indoors. It has a political theme that runs deep, enhanced by haunting music. Although "The Tracker" gets off to a slow start, it build tension en route to a powerful ending. It's a film that would appeal to viewers looking for something a little different, as well as those interested in cultural history or outdoor adventure.
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Bloody Brilliant!
gormenghast727 October 2004
The music MAKES the movie. I believe the director of the film wrote the words and Graham Tardif did the music. I would kill to get my hands on the soundtrack. Unfortunately, it is an almost unknown movie, so the chance of finding the soundtrack is next to nil. The tracker, fanatic and follower were great characters, as were the last 10-15 minutes of the movie, which in my book earns it a 10. The BEST Aussie movie I have seen. It belongs in the center of the pool room. I can't get the music out of my head. There are long periods without dialogue, just the viewer, the music and the Australian outback - a beautiful place if you know it. If the scenery appeals to you, and you enjoy a good read, then try The Tree Of Man by Patrick White.
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Racism and Bigotry in the Outback...Another winner by De Heer!
meddlecore27 May 2007
The Tracker is a beautiful yet disturbing film by Rolf De Heer about Ignorance, Racism, Biggotry and Tribal Justice in the Australian Outback in the 1920's. It follows a group of 3 white Australian men- young, middle aged and old- who are tracking a "black fella" who has been accused of killing a white woman. This man has escaped and wandered into the wilderness- back toward his home. The three men are being led by an aboriginal tracker played by the magnificent David Gulpilil, whom you may remember from films like De Heer's Ten Canoes, Noyce's Rabbit-Proof Fence, Weir's The Last Wave and Roeg's name a few. De Heer intercuts the story of the men with aboriginal paintings depicting the events occurring. This provides for a much more dramatic experience, as it shows how such events had a drastic impact on the aboriginal people and their culture.

The middle aged man (also the ranking officer) is a sadistic racist fu ck who believes that, "the only good black fella, is a dead black fella", as he and the tracker awkwardly joke. It is clear from the beginning that the tracker is leading them astray because he knows the man's motive- as he feels it is necessary to use force to keep ALL black men in check (as well as his fellow officers). Tensions rise between the officers, the tracker and the ranking officer when he brutally murders a number of innocent aboriginals, hanging one from a tree as a "warning" for the rest. The saddest part is that he ironically believes that he is cleansing the land of people who have "morally declined" and "don't speak the truth" (whatever that means). From here things take a drastic turn and De Heer takes us on a journey from which we learn a lesson about Tribal Justice.

The beautiful locations, wonderful cinematography, mind grabbing plot and great acting make this film a joy to watch despite it's somewhat disturbing content and subject matter. This is a wonderful film that can't be missed.
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Very well done.
Mr Yuck8 April 2006
This movie was excellent.

I stumbled upon this one at the video store and since I have one of those subscriptions, I figured why not, it wont cost me anything to rent this, so I did, and it was superb, well worth the watch.

Well casted, the actors played their parts very well.

Though the movie had little action, the music brought it to life

The soundtrack was superb, it was a major part that brought the film to life, it somehow brought each character to life and told who they were, though the characters had no names, they were developed throughout the film well.
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The Tracker
Scarecrow-8821 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Three white hunters and an aboriginal tracker are combing Australia for another aboriginal accused of killing a white woman. Mostly on horseback, the nameless white hunters have their tracker walk on foot doing his work. The most aggressive white man is played by Gary Sweet. Sweet's authoritarian is a blinded racist who deems himself and his race superior to the aboriginals and unflinchingly shoots women and children without remorse. His methods infuriate the Tracker David Gulpilil and we can see that the aboriginal will eventually get payback when the time is right. Damon Gameau portrays the green, newly enlisted soldier a bit in over his head, but at least feels somewhat humane to the aboriginal race even stopping Sweet from continuing his slaughter of a family of women and children. Grant Page portrays an older gentleman none too pleased to having been volunteered for this mission of retrieving the supposed aboriginal killer. He clearly makes it known to Sweet how he disapproves of his situation. As they journey onward there will come a point of reckoning as The Tracker, who had been chained by Sweet and led around like a slave often tugging on him like a mutt, will quietly get his revenge. The Tracker is all smiles, but in moments when can see the wheels turning as he keeps the white men distanced from the quarry buying time for him.

I felt this was more a meditation and indictment on racism toward the aboriginal people. Certinly through the artwork present throughout, and sad melody that accompanies the film, we get a feeling of what the harshness must've been like. The always reliable Gulpilil has the ability to prove that less is more through his subtle performance. The harsh environs of Austrailia again is put to good use.
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Truly An Experience
Robin Cook7 October 2008
Being in the USA, I'm not exposed to many films from Australia. I had seen Rabbit Proof Fence and Walkabout films some years ago ... and this one is in yet another corner of being a most outstandingly exceptional film.

There was a moment when the music almost seemed too much too long, but the "understood" clip clop of horse's feet not heard and replaced with music with a profile movement of each character outlined on the screen had the desired effect in keeping me from cutting off viewing. One thing I would have liked would have been some insight to the social customs of Aborigine's and aboriginal laws of the time concerning the subject of rape and murder. I recently watched an episode in a new series of Double Trouble in which it was a serious offense for a young aboriginal girl and boy to go to a cove to go swimming alone without an adult. How was "consensual sex" between a white woman and aboriginal man considered back in this movie's era? Customs, culture and "laws" were so much different then.

This film gives the sense of the long trail with three men tracking an Aborigine accused of raping and murdering a white woman. As the trail meanders thru the dry brush tundra, it is mingled with songs and freeze frame shots with original paintings capturing the moment's dark scene(s). Alongside Walkabout film, this film should, also, be with the Criterion Collection, if not already. With that said, this film was truly an experience and I truly recommend it.
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a fine Australian movie relevant to all indigenous peoples
spj-427 May 2007
This is an excellent movie that has much empathy & convictions with the plight of indigenous peoples. It justly portrays the struggles of such victims of popular opinion & authority, without merit or broader justice, in remote locations.

Skin colour different! Customs different! But how similar in truer circumstance of imprisonment to some kind of authority, however unjust. But mostly, unquestioned! To me, it brings to mind the less well-known abstract mystery of underlying "Dreamtime" world in "The Last Wave" & the more violent but more critically acclaimed "The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith". They were both fine Australian movies of the 1970s, in my opinion. Likewise, the American cinematic masterpieces "Eagle's Wings" & "A Man Named Horse" which I also was very much impressed by.

The voices of victims virtually cry & echo out from the desolate landscapes mostly impressively presented in each of these classic movies! But the messages here in this movie "The Tracker", that I have now viewed twice, are especially moving, as yet another native in his land of inheritance is abused & abused & abused, under authorities far from just or caring, or familiar or comfortable to himself & his kindred spirits! But still, this is a sensitive & sympathetic film!

When 'The Tracker' was shackled in a vast outback, it was an ironic portrayal we are viewing, & indicative of the prison inflicted on his peoples across time & place, after 40,000 years in Australia! Vastness was no comfort in this massive prison. The victims merely did not put up barbed wire or electified fences to promote themselves, as whitemen duly did so many times, in reality!

When 'The Tracker' is whipped time & again by his "boss", he reminds me personally of Jesus, "King of Kings" & "The Greatest Story Ever Told"! And these people have their kingdoms DUE respect as surely as what was being presented in "King of Kings" or "Ben Hur" or countless other portrayals of outstanding individuals expressing JUST defiance from "Gandhi" to "Cry Freedom"!

Our prayer should always be for such victims!!!
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Lose the songs.
Spleen8 May 2003
Every so often the motion picture photography will just stop and a moment - usually a moment of violence - will be represented by a painting, in glowing colours. It's a powerful and dense device. The paintings are more shocking than explicit gore, which simply encourages us to turn away in disgust and then forget about it ... the paintings work, in fact, as Brechtian "distancing" devices ought to (but usually don't) work, distancing us from the concerns of the moment without distancing us from the world of the fiction. (They also hint at an aboriginal perspective. They suggest that the events we see are, somewhere and at some time, being documented; that even if they won't ever become part of any white historian's account, they will still enter into the historical record in some form.)

Alas, de Heer violates the one-gimmick rule by also using a narrative song track. The low point is when we see the four main characters plodding along on horseback, the camera holding each in turn in a tight close-up, and the singer, who sounds as though he could not be brisk or succinct if his life depended on it, tells us about each of them, one interminable song stanza per character - and he tells us stuff we already know anyway. In fact, the singer NEVER tells us anything we don't already know or aren't capable of working out. I swear, if a troubador had strolled in front of the camera, strumming a lute, it could not have been more intrusive (and might have been more entertaining). To be fair, the songs take up very little time overall. For one or two long stretches they're absent altogether. They do most of their damage by making us worry that they'll come back.

Minus the songs it's a wonderful film. It's a wonderful film anyway. De Heer has a tight, perfectly formed story that's nonetheless entirely believable, about the uncertain, shifting balance of power between the three riders and between the riders and the tracker; it's strongly acted and told with visual mastery (there's a memorable scene in which we see - with just a few simple shots - a dry plain from the perspective of the follower, full of identical white pebbles, and from the perspective of the tracker, with a single pebble that must have been displaced in the past hour or so leaping to the eye). The songs I soon forgot; the film itself I won't.
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Fruzzl30 July 2002
Review: After watching this film you have no doubts as to why they opened this years Melbourne International Film Festival with this picture. The Tracker, written, produced and directed by Rolf de Heer is really a great insight into early Australian life, not that this film is based on fact, it does give you a perspective that really hasn't been captured on the screen with this professionalism. Gary Sweet, the man most known for his performance in Police Rescue on aussie TV really does show us that he isn't just a television actor. I'd have to say that watching new comer to the screen, Damon Gameau, really was a great experience. I'm astounded by the talent that seems to just be pouring out of NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art). Now onto the real star of this picture, David Gulpilil. He really did shine in all areas of the picture, not only was his performance captivating and heart warming, he actually was a really funny guy. The film lives for David, every moment he is not on screen you are begging him back, he really does steal the show. The only negative that I could say about the film would be the soundtrack, it wasn't really my type of music, and I don't think it suited the film as well as something else could have.

After the screening we were treated to a Q&A session with Rolf de Heer and Damon Gameau. Some not to interesting questions followed which took up the ten minutes of question time allocated. It would be really interesting to have a much more in depth session with Rolf as he had a lot more to speak about.

Final comments: Great film, too bad about the music, but overall an amazing piece of film making, breath talking scenery and some damn fine jokes thrown into the mix.
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Not even worth a quick look
John Holden25 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Many movies choose topics so that they can't be attacked or questioned: racism, the Holocaust, genocide, pederasty, the heroes of 911, Hitler, etc. This is about one of them: extreme racism in Australia. Nevertheless, the movie sucks.

The characters are one-dimensional (this is probably intentional - the characters are named for their traits). There's no character development at all. Gulpilil is great, as always. The rest are flat.

Far and away the worst thing is the soundtrack. Remember when John Wayne tells the woman that he's a loner, gets on his horse and rides away while she cries and looks pained? Just then some music comes up. Some weak ballady thing "He rides alone; his heart of stone; he knows the path; the wayward wind; ..." whatever. It's an RCH away a lounge song. Tracker has music at this level throughout. It's not just intrusive or weird. It's completely out of phase with the movie. And it's so bad it's painful.

Tracker much like a high-school film project about racism: you know you're not going to get an A if you defend it; you know it's bad; so you have characters with names such as Mr White; Mr Black; Mr Bigot; ... And your parents are really proud of you.

See the brilliant "The Chant of Jimmie Blacksnmith" (1978) and don't waste a minute on this one.
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Looks and sounds good but ultimately very simplistic
mossy16 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is a powerful film by the way the terrible beauty of the Australian outback is captured. Also by the haunting soundtrack. The story is very basic, the evil white man is chasing an Aboriginal charged with murdering a white woman. The tracker is helping the policeman to track the fugitive through the outback. The policeman also has a young gullible constable with him and also an older man. The trouble is that the plot is far too simplistic. The aboriginals are painted as noble intelligent savages while the whites are evil or at best stupid and naive. The tracker (David Gulpilil) is portrayed as far smarter and cunning than his white boss. The really strange plot is why the tracker, who knows exactly where the fugitive is but won't tell his boss and keeps leading them further and further into the bush, why the tracker keeps leading the boss to groups of "innocent" aboriginals who the boss massacres. After another massacre the tracker decides to hang the boss and leads the follower to a group of Aboriginal elders who punish the fugitive for raping a black woman by spearing him through the leg(Aboriginal law). Again the noble savage myth because in Australia, aboriginal women are subject to domestic violence and are not protected by aboriginal law. In summary, go and see it for the incredible scenery and soundtrack but don't believe the plot in any way.
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A must-see film for Mr. George W(ar) Bush. And yes, De Heer has created a masterpiece.
oso_travis1 July 2004
The Tracker. Directed by Rolf de Heer. ****

"God respects our law, as He respects also yours... maybe more."

"Alexandra's Project", De Heer's wicked, dark and brilliant 2003 film opened here back in April. Before that, hardly anyone knew who he was. But now he is starting to have a name around here.

"The Tracker" which will have its commercial run here during the summer , thanks to the UNAM Festival, and no thanks to the distributors who have foolishly ignored it, and who are more worried about going after French crap like "Tais-Tois" and "Pere at Fils". It is a rare brilliant gem that came from beautiful Australia, being also overlooked in the U.S., getting a tiny exhibition circuit.

But I'm so glad I've had the chance to watch (twice!) this amazing motion picture. It's outstanding in deed. I don't know how to even start praising it.

Director, Rolf de Heer, is a brave auteur. Both "Alexandra's..." and "Tracker" were made with a very reduced budget, with very few people in the cast, no FX, few resources. But, hear my words, the man HAS talent. He has created gripping, engaging, original films that make you stay on your seat, UNTIL THE FILM ENDS. I felt "Alexandra's..." was a little uneven but "Tracker" it practically flawless; It doesn't have one weak moment. He knows how to be a good storyteller. He knows how to let the film flow, with a minimum number of characters. And he doesn't need the corniness Linkater used for his "Before Sunrise / Sunset" to succeed.

He wrote the screenplay for "Tracker". The dialogues are beautiful, yet natural; they never sounded overworked. Sometimes the situations are funny, other times are tragic and moving, still there's a perfect balance on this and there's the best character development I've seen in years; the film lasts for 90 minutes, when it's over, we know A LOT about each one of the characters.

The cast is superb. David Gulpilil is great as usual. Grant Page as the Veteran is funny and charismatic. And the great acting wrestle involves Gary Sweet as the Fanatic and Damon Gameau as the Follower. They are both PERFECT. Right in the note. Jackpot. They did their best to get into the characters' shoes and the brilliant results are at sight.

Violence is showed in a very measured, respectful way, but the film still manages to be very provoking and disturbing. Racism is a delicate matter, so the way the characters change from racists to anti-racists and back again could stir up the debate. Their personalities are so HUMAN, so ambiguous, like the beautiful landscapes we see through the film.

The film looks good an it is. The beautiful folk songs are an essential piece of this work. And though, it never, never gets preachy I think it portrays a valuable lesson to learn: Hope and Peace, will come when Respect and Tolerance are brought to pass between Nations. So Mr. Bush, please watch this film.

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Tedious and pretentious
Amnes14 February 2005
Poor and lazy attempt at getting some aboriginal actors and history on to the cinema screens. Sadly (although there's plenty of funding for this sort of thing) though, it fails on many many levels. One wonders if the funding was just too easy to get.

All the white actors are terrible, the attempt to create 'atmosphere' through use of silence and absence of dialogue is just boring, cinematography is ordinary, and uh it just seems like a lazy filmmakers idea of a quick buck and a bit of PC egotism.

Much as I'd like to see some good oz films featuring aboriginals or stories about them, this isn't one. It's just embarrassingly bad and you'll find yourself fast-forwarding.

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