24 user 56 critic

Van Diemen's Land (2009)

The true story of Alexander Pearce, Australia's most notorious convict. In 1822, Pearce and seven fellow convicts escaped from Macquarie Harbour, a place of ultra banishment and punishment,... See full summary »


Jonathan auf der Heide (screenplay), Oscar Redding (screenplay)
2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview:
Oscar Redding Oscar Redding ... Alexander Pearce
Arthur Angel ... Robert Greenhill
Paul Ashcroft Paul Ashcroft ... Matthew Travers
Thomas M. Wright ... Thomas Bodenham (as Thomas Wright)
Mark Leonard Winter ... Alexander Dalton
Greg Stone ... William Kennerly
John Francis Howard John Francis Howard ... Little Brown
Torquil Neilson Torquil Neilson ... John Mathers
Matt Wilson Matt Wilson ... Duty Soldier
Adrian Mulraney ... Logan
Ben Plazzer Ben Plazzer ... Soldier in boat
Jonathan auf der Heide ... Soldier in boat
Jason Glover ... Lieutenant Cuthbertson


The true story of Alexander Pearce, Australia's most notorious convict. In 1822, Pearce and seven fellow convicts escaped from Macquarie Harbour, a place of ultra banishment and punishment, only to find a world less forgiving.. the Australian wilderness. Abandon all hope you who enter. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Hunger is a strange silence.


Not Rated | See all certifications »

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Follows Hell's Gates (2008) See more »

User Reviews

A gripping story poorly translated onto the big screen
23 July 2010 | by niallishSee all my reviews

Having seen a documentary about this story a few years ago, I was enraptured by the story and absorbed until its conclusion. When I heard a film was in production, I was interested to see how it would be translated into a motion picture.

This should by no means considered a film that delivers on the potential of this story.

I suspect budgetary restraints ruled out the possibility of opening scenes such as the prisoner's arrival at Hell's Gates as the prisoners rowed for their lives through the stormy sea. Scenes in the courtroom where Pearce is confronted with the horror of his deeds were similarly ruled out. I also believe budgetary restraints were at the root of so much of the landscape views of Tasmania we were 'treated' to- a previous comment said the film works as an ad for the area, I didn't rent the film to see an ad for the landscape of Tasmania!

In one scene the director focuses on a mountain top for longer than five seconds (It was long enough for the thought to enter my mind- did he hike up here with a camera and say, well I made it up here so this shot is taking up at least six seconds of this movie!)

Budgetary constraints doesn't mean the film couldn't have been successful, engrossing, and in some ways this gave it an advantage over any big-budget films that may succeed it. Whereas they would spend time on back-story, by cutting straight to the shock value of the cannibalistic 'middle part of a possible trilogy' as suggested by an earlier comment, Auf Der Heide could have given a definitive interpretation of it. Time saved on earlier scenes could have been used to give more depth to the inter-group dynamics, leaving the viewer wondering 'who would be voted off next', in a Survivor-like scenario.

If you're making a film like this with a low budget, the focus has to be more on the human aspects of the group. For this to work, a strong narrative voice explaining the group dynamics was needed. Pearce would have been ideal for this, but instead we were presented with 'the quiet man', which proved disastrous.

Where could the film have succeeded in the context of it having a relatively low budget? How could it have better elicited tension and emotions?

· Fleeing the prison- dialogue about having to escape the deadly conditions would have helped us see the need for escape

· The decision to resort to cannibalism- the portrayal of how the resources diminish isn't done in a way that builds tension, it's merely documented. Members of the party were unaware whilst the others plotted, and the first murder took place at night while the first victim slept. This scene should have been shot through the ignorant ones' eyes as they wonder what's become of the group.

· This could have been followed by dialogue between the two who ran away about how they thought they were next and the plan of their subsequent escape from the group.

· Explaining the sub-groups; the miracle of Pearce's survival is that he was the outsider from the point where there was at least 4 left and in theory he should have been next in the pot. A narrative from him detailing these fears could have done wonders.

· When it came down to the two men, the pact that took place between the two men to renounce cannibalism has no place in the film. This could have been developed the theme, added to the tension as we question the two men's sincerity or even broken the pervasive silence.

· There was no moment of catharsis where he reaches the village and is 'saved', if a man can be saved after what he has been through.

Ultimately it's a poor script that failed to bring out the potential of the subject matter or to deliver any character I would either remember (the Alexander Pearce of my memory is the one whose character was explored in the documentary I saw) or whose survival I actually cared about even in the closing scenes of such dramatic potential.

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English | Irish

Release Date:

24 September 2009 (Australia) See more »

Also Known As:

Hell's Gates See more »


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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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