“And there are new kinds of nomads, not people who are at home everywhere, but who are at home nowhere. I was one of them.” ~Robyn Davidson, Desert Places
I watched a film yesterday called “Tracks.” This film first got my attention when I saw the trailer on a plane journey from Vancouver home to Ottawa in May. The film is a gift—full of an epic journey across the Australian Outback from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean. The main love in the story is the love between a young passionate and independent wild woman and her dog and camels. These animals serve as her companion species, following her on her journey, and helping her with the hard work of carrying packs and supporting her. Her dog serves as a guide at one point in the movie, when in an emotional moment, she realizes she dropped her compass and finds herself separated from her camels searching for the lost and sentimental item. She is terrified to have lost sight of the camels and all her supplies and screams at the dog “Digby, GO HOME.” The dog is confused at first but then takes off across the flat, red earth. She runs after the dog and is lead finally back to the waiting camels and safety. Throughout the movie, the dog is a constant. A companion species in the truest sense: her confidante, her protector, and her travel partner.
And throughout the entire movie, the love story is really not between the National Geographic photographer and the independent traveller, but is rather between this woman and her dogs and the camels. It is only when the dog dies that her journey loses its excitement and she realizes she can’t go on. It’s only then that she realizes that she is lost and alone and scared and perhaps this journey was too much for her. It is only then that we see the human love story evolve as the photographer steps up to prove himself to be a compassionate and honourable soul who helps her finish her journey successfully and ultimately become her love.
I loved this film for so many reasons, but mostly because it was about wandering. About being a nomad and feeling uncomfortable within the constraints of space and time that one is born into. The young traveller left her city, left her friends and family and just wanted to be alone. But more than that, she was irrefutably annoyed be the society which she lived in. She was bored of alcohol, and conversations, and racism and living in an urban centre away from the large open spaces she loved. Much like the seminal story of “Into the Wild” She wanted to be alone, not to prove anything or for the fame of the journey, but to simply stop functioning in a world she no longer appreciated. She wanted to find strange and beautiful adventures along an uncertain and ever-changing path. Throughout the film we see her flashbacks—the hard memories she is attempting to push down and struggle with as she crosses rough topographies of the earth, heart, and mind.
I love everything about this film. Especially: the movement. The beauty of the landscapes, and the animals and the fierce determination of the actress. I love the commitment to nomadism, to meeting and honouring differences in the Aboriginal peoples the traveller encountered. I love the distain in which she addresses the photographer until he proves himself to be an equally beautiful human being. I love the film’s ability to pose questions I often long about such as: how can I walk more carefully on this earth and do less harm to others and ourselves? (With regard to the ways in which the traveller peacefully left her unhappiness in the city and encountered the people she needed to meet, developing new relationships and new experiences on the move). How can we tell exciting stories of movement (our own camel stories) honouring the importance of our (un)rooted nomad stories? And how can our encounters with animals, and fellow humans, the earth, and our own fragile hearts and bodies become more compassionate? Ultimately this film showed once again, that life is all about connections, disconnections, and the spatial stories we need to share with others.
The author of Tracks and the real life traveller the film is based on, Robyn Davidson, says: “Camel trips, as I suspected all along, and as I was about to have confirmed, do not begin or end: they mere change form.”