DARKMATTERS - The Mind of Matt

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Saturday, May 08, 2010

Darkmatters Review: Van Diemen’s Land

Van Diemen’s Land (15)

Dir. Jonathan auf der Heide

Reviewed by Matt Adcock

“Hunger is a strange silence…”

Feeling peckish? You might not be if you witness writer-director Jonathan auf der Heide’s debut feature… We’re back in 1822 where gritty cannibalism is the order of the day as a bunch of neer-do-well convicts turn on each other to survive during their escape break across the harsh and unforgiving Australian wilderness.

Van Diemen's Land was a penal camp, rightly feared as being a place that would be un-escapable from due to it being situated at the end of the world (near Macquarie Harbour, which was nicknamed 'Hell’s Gate').
A nicely stereotypical bunch of inmates made up of Irish, English and Scottish make a ill prepared dash for freedom, only to be cowed by the barrenness of the land… As their rations run low and physical exhaustion sets in – the band look to kill and eat each other to survive.

Oscar Redding stars as Australia’s most ‘notorious’ convict, Alexander Pearce, he makes an interesting character and is ably backed up the motley escape party which includes Mark Leonard Winter, Arthur Angel and Paul Ashcroft…

Heide creates some fantastic dark and deeply foreboding atmosphere using the freaky natural landscapes of what is now Tasmania and shoots it through with an unnerving washed out palette. You’re effectively drawn in deeply as the characters strike up some lively banter, form cliques and eventually come to fatal blows. The suspicion and tension ratchet up nicely and all the while are the haunting, lingering landscapes that act as a major character in themselves.

I’m not a very squeamish film viewer, so the cannibalism didn’t freak out too much (it’s not as grim as in say 1999’s Ravenous which deals in similar dark subject matter). Everything ticks along as you might expect, there are no real surprises, just the gritty outplay of some very grim events. It is effectively put together and worth a watch if you like your dramas “meaty”…

The big ‘buy in’ is the sixty-four-million question of “what would you do?” Assessing that moral dilemma is what will either have you shaking your head and tut at the very premise or agonise with the characters throughout their harrowing misadventure.

Darkmatters rating: öööööö (6 hungry convicts out of 10)

If you fancy it, why not pick it up when it’s released on the 24th May, try here: http://tinyurl.com/2uwfqx7

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