'Vigil: Special Edition' [Blu-ray]
(Penelope Stewart, Frank Whitten, Bill Kerr, Fiona Kay, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1984) 2018 / Arrow Films UK)
Overview: A lonely girl living on an isolated, mist-cloaked farm is confronted with the changes wrought by a stranger that arrives.
Blu ray Verdict: 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'.
That's all well and good, but for my money, 'Vigil' has some good ideas, and occasional moments when they're realized fairly well, but this is anything but a satisfying movie.
There's virtually no content at all, and it is painfully slow in revealing its emptiness. None of the characters are compelling, the scenery, is unremittingly gray and bleak, the mood is as drab as the leaden sky under which it's filmed.
However, it for sure is propelled by Fiona Kay's outstanding performance as Toss, and word has it 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.
Ward's work in this film reminded me of the use of images by Bergman in his early films. Rough country, silhouetted figures, unexpected angles and movement, an avoidance of bright color.
We have to struggle to get to know the characters a little, and that is what I found was both drawing myself into the film and having me wandering, not caring for large moments also.
Sure, Ward could be accused of not telling the story fully enough, but it can also be said, and should be, that I also found that his style kept me wondering what might happen next. Although not for too long, sorry.
At this point in time, NZ films were often remarkable only for their weirdness, and 'Vigil', although tender and with heart, is not an exception. This is a brand new High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation enhanced for 16x9 TVs and come with the Special Features of:
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
+ FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Carmen Gray.