Sunday, November 01, 2009

Van Diemen's Land - Review - VDL movie a mere appetizer

For me Jonathon auf der Heide's film, Van Diemen’s Land did not go far enough.
The title is somewhat misleading, as cinamagraphiically, the movie did not portray Van Diemen’s Land (VDL) of the 1820s. It only provided a cameo picture of Tasmania’s awesome West Coast wilderness forest which surrounds Macquarie Harbour.

Having known the movie was to be about Alexander Pearce, the cannibal, I was disappointed that the story's plot was no more than Pearce’s first escape attempt along with seven other convicts.
(When he was captured, he admitted his crimes but his story seems too far fetched and he was not believed. The second time Pearce escaped he was found in possession of a human limb and was hung.)
After a few days in the forest, the eight men run out of food, and through frustration and anger begin to feed off each other.
Like the lore of the sea, this seems almost logical under the circumstances.

Apart from the opening scene where the barefoot prisoners patiently await the order to swim to the waiting whaleboat, there is little indication of their festering desperation to escape from the hell-hole that was Sarah Island.

It was disillusioning for me to see convicts who were made to toil twelve hours in deplorable conditions and fed on incredibly meagre rations, looking fit and healthy, with perfect teeth and one at least with a neatly trimmed beard – and tall at that.
In dress and stature, producer Oscar Redding, who played Pearce, presented as the most convincing character.

The wilderness scenery of the Gordon and King Rivers area creates a chillingly haunting atmosphere, though to traverse those areas is even more difficult than depicted in the film. Unfortunatley, some of the scenes filmed in Victoria depict countryside which is foreign to the Macquarie watershed.

Having recently visited the area to learn about VDL’s history and to see first hand the site of the convict settlement (see earlier blog posts), and to cruise the waterways of the King and Gordon Rivers, I wanted more.

The convict history of Van Diemen’s Land, in particular the settlement in Macquarie Harbour, is incredibly rich and disturbing. The movie Van Diemen’s Land is a mere tempting appetizer.


Helen from Hobart said...

Our comments were the same as yours - convicts far too well fed and groomed - landscape too open and accessible to be the West coast of Tasmania.
This bunch of convicts had it easy compared to the real ones.
For the real escape route go to The Cannibal Run
where a group of Tassie bush walkers retrace Alexander Pearce's footsteps.

Margaret Muir said...

I checked out the Cannibal Run. Great escape! Most I have done lately is a walk around Dove Lake.
I also visited Strahan recently and took a trip on the West Coast Wilderness railway which made me wonder how on earth anyone could escape through that sort of terrain and across those raging rivers.