Directed by: Rolf De Heer
Written by:Rolf De Heer
Starring: David Gulpilil, Gary Sweet, Damon Gameau, Grant Page, Notel Wilton
Released: August 8, 2002
Grade: A-

The Tracker may have an Australian setting but it sure doesn’t have an Australian feel.  Breaking away from the similarities that have plagued recent Aussie productions, Rolf De Heer’s latest flick comes completely from left field and is welcome breath of fresh air.

From the outset, you can see the obvious differences and sense those that are to follow.  There are no opening credits - this includes logos, studio information and even the film’s title!  The film just... begins.  Set in Australia 1922, we follow five people who are never named or identified - they are just faces.  There’s an Aborigine who being used by three police officers to track another Aborigine who after being accused of raping a white women, fled into the outback.

There are few words spoken by any of the cast.  The eerie silence (during which you won’t want to be munching away on your popcorn) is interrupted by unexpected musical numbers.  It’s like a mini-musical with the songs telling us more about the characters than their words and actions do.  An inventive technique which would have required much planning and deliberation before shooting.  Top credit to De Heer for not only taking a chance but for pulling it off.

The performances from David Gulpilil, Gary Sweet, Damon Gameau and Grant Page are exemplary and I expect several will receive recognition when the Australian Film Institute announces their award nominees in early October.  For that matter, I expect the film to receive recognition across most all categories.  The lack of dialogue forces the audience to focus on other, usually unappreciated, elements.  The desolate landscape is the ultimate backdrop and the cast are completely in touch with their characters evidenced by the many facial close-ups.

Another little quirk of the film is how De Heer uses Aboriginal art to illustrate key scenes.  For example, there’s a scene where Sweet kills a group of Aborigines.  Rather than show the brutal shooting, as Sweet fires his gun, we cross to a piece of art that shows the killings whilst still hearing the gunfire in the background.  Just another original element to an already special piece.

Rolf De Heer was born in the Netherlands but moved to Australia age the age of 8 and has become one of our leading filmmakers.  He won an AFI Award and received a special mention at the Venice Film Festival in 1993 for his unbearably shocking Bad Boy Bubby.  Twice he has had films selected to screen at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival -  The Quiet Room in 1996 and Dance Me To My Song in 1998.  Most will be unfamiliar with both De Heer and his works but the opportunity for you to become a fan has arrived.  All you need do is see The Tracker.