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

Black Is the New White

Welcome to The Summer Library: selected extracts from the best new books this summer

An Orchestra of Minorities

Welcome to The Summer Library: selected extracts from the best new books this summer

Close to Home: Selected Writings

Welcome to The Summer Library: selected extracts from the best new books this summer

Climate Justice

Welcome to The Summer Library: selected extracts from the best new books this summer


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

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The author of ‘The Tall Man’ tries to understand the motivations of a Black Saturday firebug

Still from Cold War

Pawel Pawlikowski’s perfectly formed ‘Cold War’

Not a moment is wasted in what could be the Polish director’s masterpiece

Still from I Used to be Normal

Female fandom and Jessica Leski’s ‘I Used to be Normal’

They’ve been dismissed and patronised, but Beatlemaniacs, Directioners and other fangirls are very self-aware about their boy band ‘affliction’


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 ‘The Beehive’

The lady vanishes: ‘The Beehive’ at Sydney Festival

Zanny Begg and Philippa Bateman on their enigmatic film that explores the unsolved disappearance of Juanita Nielsen

Image from ‘Primavera’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art

‘Primavera 2018: Young Australian Artists’ at the MCA

This exhibition of the up-and-coming asks complex questions about who we are

Fusion

Welcome to The Summer Library: selected extracts from the best new books this summer

Zebra and Other Stories

Welcome to The Summer Library: selected extracts from the best new books this summer


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