Vigil

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domino harvey
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Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Vigil

#1 Post by domino harvey » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:44 am

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Vincent Ward once described as the Antipodean Werner Herzog made his feature debut with Vigil, heralding his status as one of New Zealand s most distinctive filmmaking talents and paving the way for such equally remarkable and unclassifiable efforts as The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey and Map of the Human Heart.

A stranger appears in a remote New Zealand farmland at the exact time a farmer accidentally falls to his death. The mysterious outsider grows close to some of the dead man s family, to the point where he and the widow become lovers. But her eleven-year-old daughter, Toss, struggling to come to terms with the death of her father as well as her impending womanhood, believes the intruder to be the devil and sets about protecting her family and their homestead.

Propelled by Fiona Kay s outstanding performance by as Toss, she would earn a standing ovation when Vigil screened at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival the first time ever that a New Zealand feature played in the main competition.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

High Definition (Blu-ray) presentation
Original mono audio (uncompressed LPCM)
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
Brand-new appreciation by film critic Nick Roddick, recorded exclusively for this release
On-set report from the long-running New Zealand television programme Country Calendar
Extract from a 1987 Kaleidoscope television documentary on New Zealand cinema, focusing on Vigil and Vincent Ward
Theatrical trailer
FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Carmen Gray

Calvin
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:12 am

Re: Vigil

#2 Post by Calvin » Thu Mar 29, 2018 11:03 am

Quite surprised this is being released under Arrow Video rather than Arrow Academy. It's appreciated either way though, it's a gem of a film and Ward has never managed to reach the same heights since (though I would have loved to have seen his vision of Alien 3 realised!).

It's a shame the extras look so light; a quick glance at his website makes Ward look like the type who would jump at the opportunity to provide a commentary or even an interview. It looks like the Potemkine release in France includes 2 x 45 minute interviews with Ward, Fiona Kay and others, while the old Kiwi DVD release also includes Ward's earlier works A State of Siege and In Spring One Plants Alone. I'd be surprised if Arrow didn't follow this up with a release of The Navigator, but those earlier films would fit a lot better here.

beamish13
Joined: Sun Oct 14, 2007 5:31 am

Re: Vigil

#3 Post by beamish13 » Thu Mar 29, 2018 11:05 am

Holy shit! I never expected to finally get this one on Blu Ray. Color me disappointed about the relatively skimpy extras, too, though. I hope Map of the Human Heart (which was shot in 65mm, but incredibly, never had any 70mm prints struck, so no one's ever been able to truly experience its unbelievable resplendence) and The Navigator are on the horizon, too.

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gcgiles1dollarbin
Joined: Sun Sep 19, 2010 3:38 am

Re: Vigil

#4 Post by gcgiles1dollarbin » Thu Mar 29, 2018 12:59 pm

I saw this in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1989, where I had been living in a van (not by a river, at least!) after joining a class action law suit for cannery workers, filed against Exxon the summer of the Valdez oil spill. Personal-use weed was legal in AK even back then, but I am a fragile flower when it comes to drug ingestion, and I was recovering from a bong hit that I could have sworn was laced with something (assurances by the possessor that it was just really strong, but unadulterated), so I had had a panic attack from the drug's intensity, and a day later, felt depressed and hungover. And then I went to see Vigil. Even if 80% of its effect on me was the result of the situation I was in, I was nonetheless floored by this film, laid to waste. I went to see it based on my affection for The Navigator, but there was something peculiarly and terribly sad about the formal aspects (unrelated to the story itself)--the photography, as I dimly recall, was unlike anything I had ever seen, completely absorbed in the pastorally mystic, uniquely natural setting of the farm. Is the movie as bleakly beautiful as I remember it? I would love to hear some other takes on it, given that my memory is mostly emotional residue almost thirty years later.

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colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: Vigil

#5 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Mar 29, 2018 7:33 pm

It is certainly a film which makes a great, and disturbing, use of landscape which is almost Werner Herzog-esque at times. Certainly ominously otherworldly even as early on as this film. Here's a clip of the film.

Calvin
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 11:12 am

Re: Vigil

#6 Post by Calvin » Wed Jul 10, 2019 4:41 pm

Feeling suitably guilty after I'd requested its release for years beforehand, I finally got round to watching the Arrow release last night. I'm thankful to finally own it, and its certainly the best I've ever seen it look; I'll be surprised if there's ever a better release, but I stand by my disappointment at the extras when it was first announced. Whats there is valuable, but I can see myself picking up the French release for the interviews as any cast/crew input is sorely missed. Nevertheless, I encourage anybody on the fence to pick it up during the last few days of the Arrow BOGOF.

I think it's an extraordinary work, one that fits the description of "cinema of unease" - as New Zealand filmmaking has been described - more than any other. I've yet to visit New Zealand, but the setting felt both very familiar (as a Scot, I'm accustomed to dreich Highlands populated by sheep!) and alien. The characters make their living off the land - and it can take that life away, both literally and figuratively in the sense of total isolation from the rest of the world. While it is obvious that there is a world outside of the farm, Ward somehow makes you forget that fact at more than one point during the film's duration. The world is Toss, her mother, Ethan, Birdie, and the hills that are 'closing in on them'. It's similar to what I feel during Tarkovsky's Stalker and Tarr's The Turin Horse, though this film is a very different beast.

Another element of unease to Vigil is Toss' nascent sexuality and the way that this manifests itself. There's one particular scene where Toss sucks on Ethan's fingers, and not long afterwards her mother warns him to stay away from her daughter. I didn't pick up any suggestion outwith these points that Ethan was a paedophile, but took how the film associated him with violence and predation to be an expression of Toss' general fear of the outsider - this was the man who carried her father's dead body upon her back and proceeded to replace him in many ways. In the extras, Nick Roddick says that he thinks this scene would have been viewed differently in the 80s than it would be today. I'm not sure I follow that train of thought, but I wasn't around in the 80s!

The most convincing critical reading of the film that I've came across is a couple of paragraphs from Erin Harrington's Women, Monstrosity and Horror Film: Gynaehorror, which helped me understand the title that Ward had settled on - "Vigil" - rather than the initial title of First Blood, Last Rites.

(Following quotation from the Google Books preview:)
Toss takes it upon herself to act as protector of the land by standing vigil. [...] When Ethan docks a lamb's tail with a knife the blood spurts across Toss's face, marking her as a horrified wounded victim, a bloodied virgin, exposed suddenly and portentously to the grisly reality of the inevitable violence that accompanies maturation. Her mounting terror and confusion erupt during a powerful, almost apocalyptic storm when, wet and muddy, huddled in the shearing shed, she realises that she is bleeding from between her legs, and wonders if she is dying. Toss's traumatic menarche breaks her vigil; her waiting is over; Ethan leaves the farm. Toss's final appearance, as her family finally packs up and leaves the oppressive valley, is marked by a deliberate femininity that she actively disavowed as a pre-pubescent child.
I'd love to hear any other takes that people have.

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