Van Diemen's Land (2009)
Critic Reviews for Van Diemen's Land
The Tasmanian landscape (and its stand-in Victorian equivalent) is a sight to behold in the 2:35 ratio. As the backdrop for acts of pure barbarism, it is a grey, horribly-beautiful vision of Hell.
Survival of the fittest in action. Welcome to the dark side of human nature.
In its evocation of a bleak, hostile environment in which even the meanest cannot eke out an existence, it packs a bloody punch.
A bold attempt at a full-throttle Australian art movie, Van Diemen's Land disappoints mainly when it falls back on convention... the film is at its strongest when it shifts into an elemental realm and psychology falls away.
There's no doubting the premise held great high-concept horror possibilities, but the end result is surprisingly bloodless despite some close-range gore.
Audience Reviews for Van Diemen's Land
I enjoyed this film and the depiction of the Alexander Pearce escape, the film is beautifully shot and makes for a very uneasy watching. I notice one review stated that these men didn't even attempt fishing, in those days these lower class men knew no trade or how to survive. They only turned to murder and cannibalism out of desperation to survive the harsh Australian environment. This is a remarkable Australian film that deserves a wider audience, it is slow and definitely an indie aimed film. I don't praise Australian films enough so this is a tribute to our talent and resources, sadly it will avoid the masses and remain a hidden gem.
I saw this at the Cleveland International Film Fest. This movie was fairly sickening to the stomach with its use of cannibalism. One time you see one of the escaped convicts try to hunt for some animal in the brush. During one other meal you see some leaves being boiled. Otherwise, after their bread rations are gone it is suggested that the only way they can survive is to resort to killing off each member of the group every couple days. COME ON!! So, they don't have guns to shoot down birds, but they wade across several rivers and streams and never try to eat a fish. It is unbelievable that there appears to be no animal life in all these forests. They could make more of an effort to hunt even small critters or figure out which plants are not poisonous. The poster I had seen, not the one attached here on Flixster, and the picture in the catalog for the Cleveland Film Fest led me to think the lead character was a different actor. It took a while to sort out and recognize all eight escaped men. So, I was surprised when I figured out who Alexander Pearce was. The narrator's first statement is, "I'm a quiet man." Out of the group he didn't stand out much. Because he is portrayed as being quiet and reluctant to give into the animal urges to kill to survive he is the one the audience wants to see make it to the end. I wonder how historically accurate Pearce's character is here, or if the filmmakers are trying to offer a different view on purpose. The Australian wilderness is harsh but still beautiful at times despite seeming endless. The eight men are of English and Irish descent and so are at each others throats, which adds an interesting dynamic. Even though the movie takes you on a hopeless descent it is hard to look away.
The film's main theme that is explored throughout was cannibalism, and yet it does not contain exploitative blood and brutal mutilations, whether it was budget restraint or style, it is much more effective and proved once again that "less is more". The Tasmainian wilderness colors was played between the hues of black, gray and brown, allegorically representing a never-ending limbo, a place where the convicts found their inner hell. "Van Diemen's Land" was built mainly in silence, the rest of the scenes was either sounded by the rush of the waters or the cries of anguish. Near the end, there were almost no dialogue uttered, and there were instead long shots of scenes of nothingness and despair, and a climax that leads to a hollow nowhere in the corners of humanity, as Alexander Pearce's sanity, after the contemplative chaos that they've waged against each other, snapped under terrible, and distorted reality. The director, Jonathan Auf Der Heide, played ironic wonders between the tranquility of the wild, and the inner screams of survival, which led to an exposition of the darkness of the human soul.
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