The Mystery of the Panting Schoolgirls
So what’s going on here?
Let me backtrack. Revisiting Nic Roeg’s early, funny ones is always surprising because I find myself seeing things I hadn’t seen before — usually because the BBC censored them. WALKABOUT is a case in point. I knew it had a big long nude swim by teenage Jenny Agutter, but I didn’t recall how fervidly interested in her knickers the director clearly was. It’s upskirt all the way when Roeg’s about.
But the films are certainly great, and intriguing. Full of mysteries. WALKABOUT begins in typical elliptical fashion, with that perfect brick wall tracking shot which will eventually come back and take us out into the outback. And then there’s a classroom full of panting schoolgirls.
I get false memory syndrome every time I see this. I was a school kid in the seventies, you see, and I keep thinking I remember doing this, that I know what it is, that it’s not just some bollocks Roeg invented to weird us out and make us look at schoolgirls panting. Is it breathing exercises for a language class or something, or yogic exercises (“Start every day with a breath of fire!”) Later, they hum “Mmmmm!” and chant “A-E-I-O-U” so I’m guessing the ritual is linguistic in purpose.
I don’t necessarily want you to write in with boring answers. Sometimes an interesting mystery is preferable. But on the other hand… I am curious.