BMZ Review: Australia: Land Beyond Time
By Herb Lash
Australia: Land Beyond Time Review
Written by: Herb Lash
Source: Big Movie Zone
Date: May 2002
In life and art weird things are always captivating. Weird is different, weird defies expectations - it can repulse even as it draws us closer. Take the platypus. The first Europeans who happened upon this amphibious duckbilled relative of the kangaroo were sure it was a manmade fraud - God just doesn't joke around like this. Except in Australia. AUSTRALIA: LAND BEYOND TIME is an enjoyable Big Movie primarily because Australia is a weirdly beautiful place.
The filmmakers are to be commended for taking a low-key approach to the voice over narrative and allowing the images to do most of the work. The film utilizes a standard nature documentary approach - a tried and true point and shoot strategy that usually results in an entirely predictable film. But just like in Hollywood - with enough star power you can transform your B movie to something …more. AUSTRALIA: LAND BEYOND TIME has no shortage of stars. See the Horny Devil and his lightning fast tongue. Watch as tree climbing Koala Bears get stuck in nose-to-booty traffic jams. Witness subterranean frogs living on Rumplestilskin time as they wake, dig out and play in the rain. The film is worth seeing because there is quite simply a lot of weird stuff to look at.
The film stresses that existence is first and foremost a result of adaptation. Peculiar natural forces demand peculiar responses from both Australian life and land. Whether it's an ancient rain forest clinging to life or the ability of a kangaroo to put a pregnancy on hold during times of drought - this mostly desert island continent demands survivor skills you don't see on TV game shows. The adaptation message is as true as it is familiar. But by choosing not to include that weirdest and most adaptive animal of all, the film suffers. Are there no humans in Australia? We see Kangaroos struggle to scratch tough to reach spots in the middle of their backs - just like humans - but these sorts of jolly anthropomorphic moments are about the only signs of human existence. Humanity is clearly not the chosen subject - but by excluding the Aborigines, and all others, the science comes across as incomplete.
Throughout AUSTRALIA's score a faint sounding didgeridoo can be heard - so it must be said that there is actually a bit of Aboriginal culture included in the film. Just enough to make one wonder what this film would have been like if the traditional narrative were replaced by an Aboriginal perspective. Every rock, stream, animal and patch of land in Australia is associated with an Aboriginal story-song. The writer and traveler Bruce Chatwin brings this vivid method of history keeping and storytelling alive in his book SONG LINES. It seems that the whole of Australia can be crossed using only these Aboriginal songs as guide - is there a more extraordinary example of life adapting to Australian environment? Large Format films have long lives - maybe this one will adapt, evolve and one day be seen with a voice over that at least equals the power of the images.
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