10,000 Bullets   Exploring the world of Cinema from the Arthouse to the Grindhouse™

Van Diemen’s Land 
Written by: on April 30th, 2010

Theatrical Release Date:
Australia, 26th February 2009
Director: Jonathan auf der Heide
Writers: Jonathan auf der Heide (screenplay), Oscar Redding (screenplay)
Cast: Oscar Redding, Arthur Angel, Paul Ashcroft, Mark Leonard Winter, Torquil Nelson, Greg Stone.

DVD released: 24th May, 2010
Approximate running time: 100 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 16×9, FAH
Rating: 15 (UK)
Sound: Dolby Digital Stereo English
Subtitles: N/A
DVD Release: High Fliers Films
Region Coding: Region 2 PAL (UK)
Retail Price: £12.99

1822, Macquarie Harbour, Van Diemen’s Land (now known as Tasmania). A remote penal colony for repeat offenders housing an assortment of bedraggled Scottish, Irish and English convicts. After a botched escape attempt incited and led by one of the convicts, Robert Greenhill (Arthur Angel), eight prisoners find themselves thrust into the heart of a harsh and unforgiving terrain. With little food and equipment soon exhaustion and hunger drive the men to near madness and with no game to be found in the desolate territory it becomes clear that they will not survive unless drastic, unthinkable measures are taken.

This is the true story of Alexander Pearce, and the film is narrated intermittently by Pearce (Oscar Redding) in subtitled and sometimes quite poetic (“Hunger is a strange silence”) Gaelic. A dark, brooding and densely atmospheric film, low on exposition or any dialogue at all for that matter. Bleak but beautiful, almost black and white cinematography pulls you into the convict’s nightmarish journey through rain, snow, river rapids and eventually murder and paranoia. Although there is little on screen blood by no means is this an easy film to watch, there are moments of brutal violence, but it’s the landscape itself; with a threatening, suffocating, near hypnotic character all of it’s own that really terrifies. Horrific certainly but not exploitatively so.

Jonathan auf der Heide as a first time director with a tight budget has produced a very accomplished piece of cinema here that invites comparison to Herzog’s Aguirre with it’s journey into madness and despair. Special mention must go to Director Of Photography Ellery Ryan, in other hands this film might just have been unwatchable. Also Jethro Woodward’s score is excellent; in equal parts haunting and menacing. This is the third film about these specific events that I’ve seen and it is without doubt the best (with The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce starring Adrian Dunbar and Ciarán McMenamin coming a close second although that one has a more TV movie feel to it).

The DVD:

Note: This review is based on an advance DVD screener and may not be representative of the final product.

16×9 transfer looks excellent. The soundtrack is clean and clear.

None on this screener. Despite the Australian release including commentary, featurettes, etc……

Far more terrifying than the majority of today’s supposed ‘horror’ output!

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