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Van Diemen's Land - Oscar Redding, Arthur Angel, Paul Ashcroft, Jonathan Auf Der Heide

Threat advisory: High - High risk of entertaining activities

Movie propaganda

The true story of Australia's most notorious convict, Alexander Pearce (Oscar Redding) and his infamous escape into the beautiful yet brutal Tasmanian wilderness. A point of no return for convicts banished from their homeland, Van Diemen's Land was a feared and dreaded penal settlement at the end of the earth.

The entrance to its remote station of secondary punishment, Macquarie Harbour, was named Hell's Gates by its prisoners as a reference to the gates of hell in Dante's Inferno - "Abandon all hope ye who enter here" was plastered at the harbour-mouth as a warning to all souls sent there.

In 1822, eight convicts escaped Macquarie Harbour in a fateful bid for freedom. This band of Irish, English and Scottish thieves were immediately hurled into chaos as their plan failed and they were thrust into the heart of a harsh and foreboding landscape. With little food or equipment, in a place these immigrants knew little about, they battled a merciless enemy - the unforgiving, barren land - a land where God wields an axe.

Theatrical propaganda posters

Van Diemen's Land theatrical one sheet image

Target demographic movie keyword propaganda

  • Film Australia history convict Tasmania Macquarie Harbour cannibalism bush wilderness penal colony survival

Persons of interest

  • Oscar Redding ... Alexander Pearce
  • Arthur Angel .... Robert Greenhill
  • Paul Ashcroft .... Matthew Travers
  • Mark Leonard Winter .... Alexander Dalton
  • Torquil Neilson .... John Mathers
  • Thomas Michael Wright .... Thomas Bodenham
  • Greg Stone .... William Kennerly
  • John Francis Howard .... Little Brown
  • Jonathan Auf Der Heide .... Soldier in boat
  • Jason Glover .... Lieutenant Cuthbertson
  • Adrian Mulraney .... Logan
  • Ben Plazzer .... Soldier in boat
  • Matt Wilson .... Duty Soldier
  • Jonathan Auf Der Heide .... Screenwriter
  • Oscar Redding .... Screenwriter
  • Jonathan Auf Der Heide .... Director

Cinematic intelligence sources

Intelligence analyst

Special Agent Matti

Theatrical report

Oh, boy. Talk about England's green and pleasant land. Not. Australia is a huge culture shock for foreigners, not-the-least because the flora (that's "plants" for our more illegitimate readers) is the wrong colour: it isn't green, it's grey. You can't understand how that does your head in unless you've gone through it. And then there's the unpleasantness: eight out of ten of the world's most poisonous snakes, killer jellyfish, crocodiles, spiders, poisonous octopi, sharks, stingrays, Ivan Milat. Not to mention the plants, which can keep you alive if you know what you're doing or kill you if you don't. And the natives, who aren't so friendly to people who drive them off their land, transmit diseases, disturb sacred sites and hunt them down with guns. And you want to live here?! What kind of idiot are you?

I guess the kind of idiot who got caught committing a crime for which the punishment is transportation. The kind of idiot who can't make the leap from "I'm in Britain" to "I'm in New Holland". New place, new rules. Heh, heh. Fortunately, the land did a good job of weeding out those unfit for the new life and turning the new country into a place for drinking, swearing, larrikin bastards who can't go five minutes without taking the piss out of someone or something (and if there's nothing else, out of themselves). There are touches of that irreverent humour throughout Van Diemen's Land, though not so frequently that you lose the main thrust of the story, which is that sometimes it really sucks to be you. Not enough food, not enough clothing, no shelter, no maps, no medicine, being chased by men with guns out in the Tasmanian wilderness... sometimes it's better just to give up.

There are three really good things from a filmmaking point of view. The first is that the cast consists entirely of unknowns. It would be a huge distraction to have famous faces popping up in this film as they would give you something to look at other than the unendingly depressing bush. The second is the cinematography, which manages to capture the harsh beauty of the Australian landscape while simultaneously making it a living hell for the convicts. The third is that there are huge periods without dialogue. This is naturalism. When you're crossing Tasmania on foot on three calories a day you don't have the energy for conversation. And remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.

I like the harsh, dirty, rough, wearying journey of the eight men: Alexander Pearce, Alexander Dalton, Thomas Bodenham, William Kennerly, Matthew Travers, Edward Brown, Robert Greenhill and John Mather. I could smell the suffering and even though it's a slow film (how fast can YOU walk across the Tasmanian wilderness?) I still wanted to know how it all turned out. This is not your average period film.

The Australia, history movie Van Diemen's Land is directed by Jonathan Auf Der Heide and stars Oscar Redding, Arthur Angel, Paul Ashcroft.

Media intelligence (DVD)

  • Languages: English
  • Special features:
    • Trailers: Theatrical

Government security censorship classification

MA 15+ (Strong violence and coarse language)

Surveillance time

104 minutes (1:44 hours)

Not for public release in Australia before date

Film: 24 September 2009
Disc: 20 January 2010

Cinema surveillance images

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