I’ve been privileged enough to have grown up on four continents and experience several cultures across numerous countries. Of all the places I have been, there is one part of the world that has eluded me so far, Australia. Maybe that is why it ranks as the top place I want to visit before shuffling off this mortal coil. Perhaps it’s because they have such a vibrant and thriving independent film culture there. It could be the stark, though awe-inspiring, vastness of its terrain combined with the beautiful, though deadly, creatures that inhabit it.
That last point is the topic of gorgeous nature documentary Australia: Land Beyond Time. Narrated by Alex Scott, the 40-some-odd minute long film takes viewers on a lush journey through the forests, deserts, and plains of the Outback; it even dives into the murky waters of the county. All to highlight the delicate balance of nature and beast that exists in, not just Australia, but the world.
Kangaroos are the “perfect long-distance athlete,” Scott intones at the start of Australia: Land Beyond Time. He goes on to describe other facts about the marsupials, as well as explaining how they evolved to survive here. The movie then transitions to highlighting different terrain and animals, including, but not limited, to an echidna, honey ants, koala bears, and the duck-billed platypus. Each time the film switches settings or focuses on a new creature, Scott elucidates the viewer.
“…takes viewers on a lush journey through the forests, deserts, and plains of the Outback…”
Eventually, two threats emerge, one natural, the other human-made. A severe storm can disrupt the wildlife’s routines, meaning either starvation or that they become easy prey for a daring predator. But, that is just a part of the circle of life. The other threat is that of pollution and human encroachment on their territory, which is killing off various species faster than scientists can discover them.
Directed by David Flatman, Australia: Land Beyond Time is presented in the most traditional way you can imagine. Gliding, stunning shots of landscapes or animals socializing/eating/hunting play out in well-framed, crisp compositions as a narrator educates the audience. As such, it comes across as a little dry in spots. Plus, at not even an hour long, the documentary barely scratches the surface of the issues facing the Outback today (to be fair, this is now 18-years-old, and some problems just weren’t on the radar in the same way).
But that does not make it a bad film. Scott is a lively guide through these strange yet beautiful lands, happily introducing viewers to the wondrous creatures living there. Flatman’s assured direction means that hopping from one locale to the next is neither confusing nor off-putting. The real star of the show though, is the cinematography. Australia: Land Beyond Time lovingly gazes at its namesake country and captures its majesty in a vibrant, exciting way. Just about every single shot is a piece of art, and the sheer magnitude of it all will leave viewers’ floored.
Australia: Land Beyond Time is, in many ways, a typical nature documentary, which might disappoint some. Plus, its brief runtime means it does not explore every topic with as much detail as possible. But through excellent direction and editing, a lively narrator, and absolutely breathtaking cinematography, the audience gets to journey through a land that is more like “another planet” than anywhere else on Earth.
"…the real star of the show though, is the cinematography."