Van Dieman's Land (4 stars)

Van Dieman's Land

(15) 100min
(High Fliers)

Why writer-director Jonathan auf der Heide superb film (arguably one of the best films screened at last year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival) is going straight to DVD in this country is a mystery. A lyrical and horrific account of Alexander Pearce’s (Australia’s most notorious convict) escape into the beautiful yet brutal island of Tasmania, the film is a prison break thriller of the queasiest kind.

In 1822, eight convicts escaped Macquarie Harbour in Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) in a fateful bid for freedom. The band of Irish, English and Scottish thieves are soon resorting to the unthinkable to survive the harsh unforgiving terrain.

Beautifully paced, sparsely written and unflinchingly horrific, Van Dieman’s Land is the work of a genuine talent. Though comparable in parts to Walter Hill’s Southern Comfort and John Hillcoat’s Ghosts of The Civil Dead, Heide’s film is actually that all too rare thing - a genuine oddity. Seek it out. Minimal extras.

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