appears early in the chase when Molly, Gracie and Daisy collapse in a huddle e after an exhausting day ofbeing on the run with little water and no food. But ^ while Rabbit-Proof Fence invokes iconic images of the lost child in the melo- D dramatic mode, it also inverts their meaning in quite significant ways. As ° mentioned above, the image of the exhausted, sleeping lost children has come D to symbolise the European settler's vulnerability in a hostile and indifferent landscape, hence reinforcing long-standing settler anxieties about belonging. Here, the image of the three young Aboriginal girls overwhelmed by the unfamiliar landscape serves an entirely different purpose by helping to establish a major theme of the story: Molly is compelled to return home not only because she desperately wants to be reunited with her mother but also because the land in and around the Moore River settlement is, quite literally, making her ill.
This idea of Molly being out of sorts with the landscape is visually expressed in the film's striking use of colour and camera angles. Speaking of his technique, cinematographer Chris Doyle explains: 'I was looking for something that suggested the torment, the cruelty of the journey, the loneliness, the isolation and the expanse.'33 Working against the rich palette and lighting techniques of the pastoral tradition in Australian period films such as Picnic at Hanging Rock, the girls' journey across unfamiliar territory is dominated by the use of desaturated colour. As Doyle suggests, this bleaching effect highlights the bleakness of the journey. It also stands in stark contrast to the oasis-like qualities of the scenes at home in Jigalong. This new post-Mabo approach to the Australian landscape is central to the film's radical inversion of the meaning of lost child films. Here, the image of a hostile, indifferent landscape actively allows for an Indigenous notion of 'country', that is, the idea that Aboriginal people belong to a particular area of land, have customary obligations to that land and are physically and emotionally affected when they are taken from their 'country'.
In addition to redefining the meaning of land in lost child stories, Rabbit-Proof Fence opens the way for a post-Mabo interpretation of the peculiar affect of the lost child story. More than just a symbol of ties cut, as Pierce suggests, lost child narratives are shot through with a peculiar sense of loss generated by their dramatisation of the impossibility of returning home. In many narratives this loss is played out through Aboriginal characters. As Pierce notes, historically, lost children stories are one of the few subgenres in Australian literature and film that acknowledge relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians, for many involve a black tracker who is g often summoned 'too late'.34 This idea of too lateness is foregrounded in js the musical One Night the Moon. Based on the experiences of a well-known " black tracker, Sergeant Alex Riley, the film tells the story of a racist father who flatly refuses to allow an Aboriginal tracker onto his land to help search for
< his lost daughter.35 When the search party fails to find the child, the tracker is 2 summoned by the mother. The tracker quickly locates the child, but by then u it is too late, for the girl is dead. For Pierce, the role of Aboriginal people in
< lost children narratives from the colonial period constitutes a terrible irony:
< 'Often they [lost children] were saved by Aboriginal men who had been £ dispossessed of this same land.'36 He goes on to suggest that the tracker is
< potentially 'a most potent image of reconciliation between black and white Australia'.37
There is little evidence to assess the effect of colonial images of Aboriginal rescues of lost children as images of reconciliation, and they were, according to Pierce, soon forgotten.38 What interests us more about the role of the Aboriginal tracker in this narrative tradition is the analogy between the ill-fated lost child of the bush and the fate of Aboriginal people, reinforcing the colonial notion of Aboriginal people as the 'dying race'. According to Pierce, the first lost child story in Australian literature was a poem by Charles Thompson titled 'Blacktown' (1826), which reflects on the fate of Aboriginal 'possessors' after they abandoned an Aboriginal settlement established for them by Governor Macquarie.39 This popular colonial/colonising image of Aboriginal people's tragic failure to integrate into modern life is the basis of Jedda (Charles Chauvel, 1955), a story reworked in Tracey Moffatt's post-colonial experimental film Night Cries (1990). This image is also reproduced in Walkabout, Nicholas Roeg's film about two British children - the Girl (Jenny Agutter) and the Boy (Lucas Roeg), as they are known - who are abandoned by their father in the outback only to be rescued by a young Aborigine (David Gulpilil).
Made in 1971, Walkabout is known for its stunning images of the Australian landscape or what Susan Dermody describes as its 'shocking beauty'.40 In an interview in which he discusses the making of the film, Roeg admits he was attracted to the project because it provided the opportunity to work somewhere 'that had hardly been surveyed', 'a big, empty back-cloth', a place where it is possible to project the kinds of primal fantasies explored in this film.41 More problematically, Roeg extends this conception of the Australian landscape as a blank canvas, a landscape that 'hasn't been tampered with', to its Indigenous inhabitants.42 Reminiscing on his selection of the then unknown, inexperienced Gulpilil to play the role of Aboriginal boy, Roeg describes Gulpilil as 'not stained by anything, except life'.43 This Rousseauesque idea of Gulpilil the actor concurs with the film's representation of the Aboriginal boy as a 'noble savage'.44 It also emphasises 0 the provocative ending in which the Aboriginal boy directs the children to , an abandoned settlement on the fringe of a mining settlement, only to take t
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