In my interview with Tracks director John Curran, he emphasised the importance of the interior journey of Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska), the young Australian girl who completed a solo trek across thousands of miles of Australian desert. That interior journey is a large part of what makes Tracks such an excellent film; the way Robyn struggles with her desire for solitude, her memories of her childhood, her search for an identity (which I described in my interview as “the profoundly difficult process of striving for individuality amongst uniformity”).
What makes Tracks one of the best films of the year is that it doesn’t allow metaphors and symbolism to overtake the sheer audacity of Robyn’s achievement (which was based on the real journey of Davidson in the seventies, later immortalised in a magazine article and novel). Her accomplishment is simply astounding; it captured the media’s attention at the time and the public’s attention shortly thereafter. Tracks isn’t just a film about finding yourself or challenging society’s expectations, it’s a film about a young woman making her way through an incredibly forbidding landscape. It’s a film about someone making history.
I’m not going to reiterate at length my discussion of the importance of the desert landscape to Tracks from my interview. Feel free to go and read it! But I should restate that the way the film embraces the spirit of the desert. The sense of isolation and calm, the sense of heat and freedom, captured in every frame of the film, from its gentle pacing to its precise photography – that spirit is the heart of the film. The reason I love cinema is not because of stories, or even characters, or beautiful cinematography or moving soundtracks (though Tracks has all these things). I love movies because they are an emotional journey, a way to transport yourself into another sphere of feeling.
Watching Tracks, I felt truly calm for the first time in weeks. It’s often akin to meditation, the way it lingers on the breathtaking beauty of the desert, the infinity of it all. There’s so much to praise about the film – Wasikowska’s commanding, nuanced performance, Adam Driver’s idiosyncratic charisma as photographer Rick Smolan, the look of the film, the sound of the film, the scope of the film – but it’s the way Tracks made me feel that made it resonate with me. Highly recommended.