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Van Diemen’s Land (2009) and Moon (2009)

August 2, 2009

van_diemens_land                                              moon-poster-2

The Melbourne International Film Festival has been host to a slew of fantastic films this year but due to my lack of money and so many sessions selling out(!!!) I’ve only managed to catch two films so far. Lucky for me they were both excellent albeit for very different reasons. Van Diemen’s Land is based on the true story of Alexander Pearce, a convict who escaped from a penal colony with seven others back in the early 1800s whose only food is each other. The Drones have a song about it you know.

Tasmania is stunningly photographed in the film, represented as a beautiful yet bleak landscape that perfectly matches the plight of the escaped convicts. Instead of shocking the audience with gore it is all rather subdued with most of the violence taking place off screen, a wise choice as it allows the characters to still appear somewhat human and relatable for the duration as they grapple with the horrible choices they have to make. The soundtrack is mostly dark electric guitar and strings that matches the bleak setting. Those who know the story know there is no happy ending but it doesn’t stop you from becoming involved with the characters’ struggle and this is a fantastically made Australian film.

Moon is an entirely different film. It was directed by Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son) in England for a small budget, at least a small budget for a sci-fi film. Instead of lavish space battles Jones makes a film about what it is to be human and how will science affect our ethics in the future. It looks and sounds great, with Jones using old school techniques such as miniature models to get his desired effect, where as the sound track is made of suitably spooky piano and the occasional spark of distortion.

Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) has been working at a mining base on the moon with his only company being a bulky computer named GERTY (Kevin Spacey) who communicates via speech and emoticons. He is nearing the end of his three year contract when after suffering an accident, things start to go wrong. The less you know the story going in, the better it will be. Rockwell does an amazing job of carrying the film and the portraying the desperation of Sam Bell. The set design is fantastic with just enough grit and mystery added to the usual hi tech space station to raise our suspicions. Every aspect is indeed well thought out and presented with a flair that is so often missing from modern sci-fi, this is a fantastic film and I can’t wait to see what Jones does next.

Van Diemen’s Land – 8/10
Moon – 9/10

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