Tracker, The

Director: Rolf de Heer

Australia| 2002. Colour. Anamorphic. Dolby digital stereo. 98 min.

One of de Heer’s most remarkable and successful films, The Tracker is a fable set ‘somewhere in Australia’ in 1922. It’s mounted like an austere western—one critic memorably described it as ‘an Anthony Mann western made by an experimental film director’—in which an aboriginal tracker (David Gulpilil) leads two white policemen and a civilian on the trail of a black fugitive wanted for the murder of a white
woman. Unlike Rabbit Proof Fence (made around the same time as Tracker and sharing similar themes as well as the aboriginal actor Gulpilil), de Heer’s film doesn’t concentrate on familiar issues of truth and justice but more basic questions about the nature of culture and power. Typical of the director’s radical approach is the decision to combine some gruelling location filming with deliberately stylised
depictions of violence (in the form of paintings) and the use of songs to counterpoint the drama and comment on the action. Beautifully performed and looking like it must have cost tens of millions, this technically brilliant and beautifully composed film was, unbelievably, made for less than a million dollars.

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