AUSTRALIA : LAND BEYOND TIME
Mounting the IMAX camera on the snout of a do-it-yourself two-engine kit aircraft, film-maker, pilot David Flatman flew thousands of miles over this vast and barren land of ours to capture the continent in all its contrasts. From the desert wastelands, to the parched outback and the glistening rain-forests; through suffocating drought and life-regenerating flood, Flatman merges a difficult land with its adaptable wildlife, many of which, much like its humans, can endure no other place on earth.
Review by Keith Lofthouse:
It begins like any other documentary on Australia with a not very surprising shot of a female kangaroo grazing peacefully with a playful joey at her feet. The hoppers are descendants of an ancient possum, we know, but the film never falls for the trap of dazzling viewers with a parade of pretty pictures while starving them of worthy information. Australia: Land Beyond Time is pictures and story ...the story of a land that was once part of the super-continent Gondwana that broke free from Antarctica to weather, isolated, the rigors of 40 million years. Documentaries made for foreign consumption tell us things we learn in kindergarten…that we are the world’s largest island and there’s no bigger rock than Uluru. But we are impressed to hear that we are the driest vegetated continent on earth, with the world’s longest stretch of unbroken cliff face; we are rare that we share our borders with no other nation and unique to be bounded by three oceans. Flatman has done us proud with images that are diverse and breathtaking, and so we forgive the ubiquitous kangaroo, seen in full-flight, at rest and in silhouette, for intimate moments when the camera snoops into a nest of honey ants in their subterranean hollow. Flatman captures what it described as an “IMAX moment” when Lake Eyre, the vast desert basin that is dry for all but one or two years every century, was in flood after record rains in the north. “Responding to reflections far away in the sky” the lake became a temporary haven for 500,000 nesting pelicans “drawn back by some ancestral knowledge to their primeval home range.”
Written by Australian Poet Laureate Les Murray and complemented by the dramatic musical compositions of David Bridie, Australia: Land Beyond Time is intelligent and sensitive to the emotions of viewers. There are no distressing scenes of death by drought; no exposure to live animals being torn apart by hungry predators which, film-makers often confuse, are scenes that animal lovers do not want to see. The great test of any documentary, I think, is when the viewer is left thirsting for more. It might have been the drought, but I felt mighty parched by the end of it.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Sitting in the third row of the IMAX cinema at Sydney’s Darling Harbour, but I sometimes felt as though I was in the tiny two seater plane that carried the giant camera around Australia, sweeping and gliding, banking and hovering over some of the most notable landscape in the world. And when we cut to a close up, I can hear the IMAX camera swagger to its 35 mm little brother, “that’s not a close up… THIS is a close up”. A close up of a spiky devil – a desert dwelling armoured lizard - makes it two meters long, just five meters from my city shoes. Spectacular waterfalls and rainforests contrast with deserts that have no horizon; the fighting male kangaroos (eight meters tall on the screen) contrast with the killer brown snake fighting off an attack from Australia’s largest lizard, and the honey ants which contrast with the crocodiles. Then there is the scenery -and seen like this some of it takes on spiritual proportions, majestic and dramatic as Australia so often is, from Uluru to the ancient trees in pockets of rainforests. What strikes me about the narration is that it manages to convey a sense of the country as diverse but singular, a unified whole. It does this by avoiding the specifics of location for every shot. It’s as majestic an overview of the world’s largest island as the terrain and its natural inhabitants.
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AUSTRALIA : LAND BEYOND TIME (G)
PRODUCER: David Flatman
DIRECTOR: David Flatman, Sue Flatman
SCRIPT: Les Murray
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Malcolm Ludgate
EDITOR: David Flatman
MUSIC: David Bridie
PRODUCTION DESIGN: not applicable
RUNNING TIME: 40 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: IMAX
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney: March 6, 2003; Melbourne: March 27, 2003