October 2011

Arts & Letters

Film masterpiece

By Adrian Martin
Rolf de Heer - ‘The Tracker’, 2002

Australian cinema is prone to chronic understatement – shrinking away from opportunities for sex, violence and catharsis. The Tracker is an exception. From early bushranger movies to The Proposition, Australian cinema has drawn close to American Westerns. The conflict between Indigenous and settler communities lends itself well to a Western treatment.

Here, four emblematic characters – the Fanatic (Gary Sweet), the Veteran (Grant Page), the Follower (Damon Gameau) and the Tracker (David Gulpilil) – travel together through the landscape in search of an Aboriginal fugitive. The Fanatic is a brutal racist, but most intriguing is the Tracker himself, magnificently played by Gulpilil – a man of few words who seems, at first, a compliant slave.

Instead of taking the familiar Aussie escape route, The Tracker follows its premise all the way to a shatteringly logical, gleefully confronting conclusion. Inverting the usual relationship between visuals and musical accompaniment, de Heer places the splendid songs performed by Archie Roach (composed by Graham Tardif) firmly in the driver’s seat. The Tracker displaces the past decade’s reconciliation debates into a primal, melodramatic, stylised form. It recognises the existence of two distinct laws, white and black, and confronts head-on how these laws clash and negotiate with each other.

—Adrian Martin

Adrian Martin
Adrian Martin is an associate professor at Monash University, and a film and arts critic. His books include Phantasms, Once Upon a Time in America and Movie Mutations. @AdrianMartin25

David Gulpilil in 'The Tracker'. Image courtesy of Rolf de Heer.
Cover: October 2011

October 2011

From the front page

Unpopulation policy

The PM’s efforts are too little too late

‘Exploded View’ by Carrie Tiffany

This new novel is most striking in how it diverges from its predecessors

Illustration

Ben Quilty in bleeding colour

The Australian artist opens up on the eve of a retrospective exhibition

Hatestream

Australia’s Islamophobia problem goes right to the top


In This Issue

Scene from 'The Theft of Sita'. Image courtesy of Melbourne Festival.

Music theatre masterpiece

An Australian–Indonesian production - ‘The Theft of Sita’, 2000

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Robert Helpmann & Anna Pavlova

Theatre masterpiece

Tom Wright & Benedict Andrews - ‘The War of the Roses’, 2009

The incendiary Meow Meow, 2011. © Magnus Hastings

Queen of the night

Meeting Meow Meow


More in Arts & Letters

Image of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, 2010

Rats, heroes and Kevin Rudd’s ‘The PM Years’

This memoir answers some questions about his deposal and return but raises others

Image of Gerald Murnane

Tracking time: Gerald Murnane’s ‘A Season on Earth’

Forty years on, the author’s second novel is reunited with its lost half

Image of Matmos

Clicks, plinks, hoots and thuds: Matmos’s ‘Plastic Anniversary’

The American experimental duo embrace the ‘sounds’ of a ubiquitous material

A French Western? Jacques Audiard on ‘The Sisters Brothers’

The celebrated director explains how he made a Hollywood staple his own


More in Masterpieces

Poetry masterpiece

Jennifer Maiden - ‘Friendly Fire’, 2005

© Sergio Dionisio/Getty Images

Design masterpiece

Marc Newson - ‘Qantas A380 Economy Seat’, 2008

Fiction masterpiece

JM Coetzee - ‘Summertime’, 2009

© Chris Harvey

Architecture masterpiece

Lindsay & Kerry Clare - ‘Gallery of Modern Art’, Queensland, 2006


Read on

Image from ‘Destroyer’

Hell hath no fury: Karen Kusama’s ‘Destroyer’

Nicole Kidman confronts in this LA crime thriller

Image from Hobart’s school strike for climate

The kids are alright

Climate-striking students have every right to protest

Image of Defence Minister Christopher Pyne

The Teflon Kingdom

Saudi Arabia is confident it can buy out the West, and Australia is happy to oblige

Image of Nationals leader Michael McCormack

Instability again threatens the Nationals

What can history tell us about the party’s current strife?


×
×