Offbeat memoir probes enigmas of film
The World is Ever Changing
By Nicolas Roeg Faber, 256pp, $35
ONE of the best Australian films was directed by an Englishman. Made in 1971 and based on a novel, Walkabout is a deceptively simple story about a young boy and his teenage sister abandoned in the outback, trying to find their way back to civilisation with the help of a young Aborigine.
The film is like a visual poem and when the Aboriginal man hangs himself because the white girl doesn’t understand his courtship dance it becomes a heartbreaking confirmation of the gulf between the two cultures. But what stunned me when I first saw it was a scene where the young white boy watches hunters shoot a bullock. After the animal dies it springs back to life again. The resurrection was one of the most astonishing moments I had seen in the cinema. What I was witnessing was the boy’s wish that the bullock live.
This was director Nicolas Roeg’s second feature. Australia would have to wait some years to see his first, the delirious identity swapping Performance, co-directed by Donald Cammell. After Walkabout Roeg made the haunting Don’t Look Now. In it he created one of the most seminal — and much copied — sequences in film where a married couple’s lovemaking is intercut with their mundane post-coital activities. What followed were more intoxicating movies like The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bad Timing and Eureka — each of them a masterpiece, even if at times they puzzled audiences with their oblique approach to narrative and chronology.
He is a unique talent whose films have been misunderstood and undervalued. He is also a consummate technician, having risen through the ranks as gofer, camera operator and