Tasmanian Gothic

Jonathan auf der Heide: Van Diemen’s Land. 2009. Australia

Probably one of the most under-rated and misjudged films from the last few years. In retelling the true story of the escape of eight convicts in 1822 from the isolated Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on Sarah Island in Tasmania (then Van Diemen’s Land), Jonathan auf der Heide engages in what cine-scholars would dub as ‘Tasmanian Gothic’. Nature and landscape forms a very vital part of this narrative, assuming qualities of malevolence and menace. What auf der Heide does, to his credit, is to shy away from creating spectacle, but rather dwell on ‘strange silences’ to craft a meditative, relentless film in exploring the heart of darkness of desperate men in an extraordinary situation. The incorporation of the ancient Irish Gaelic language casts a melancholic brooding net over this atmospheric piece. Watch.

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