From the poster image I went in thinking this was a post-apocalyptic film and even after watching I’m not a 100% sure if it was or wasn’t! It might of well have been, it certainly looked like they lived in some bleak desolate god forsaken place. Unbelievably this is set in New Zealand and not the beautiful settings we are used to from the likes of Peter Jackson’s band of bare footed Hobbits stomping around the Shire. This hamlet, where are story is set, is awash with piles of mud, slush, muck and dirty dank puddles and sad pained faces.
So yeah it may not be the aftermath of World War Three but a rural setting in a small town on the edge of the country, surrounded by mountains and valleys. This is where the Peers family have set up home with a small broken down farm herding sheep. The story is told through the eyes of a inquisitive 11 year tomboy called Lisa with the nickname Toss (Fiona Kay). A young girl filled with imagination and intrigue. Learning from her Father, Justin (Gordon Shields) how to work the land and shepherd the sheep. Much to the annoyance to her Mother Elizabeth (Penelope Stewart) who wants her to stay near and safe and secretly dreams of returning to the city one day soon.
The three of them have one more member of the family living in an outhouse, Granddad Birdie (Bill Kerr) a whiskey swigging oddball who moans as much as he sprouts wisdom whilst occasionally blasting off a few toots of his brass tuba.
All seems to be going as well as can be I guess until an accident brings the mysterious stranger Ethan (Frank Whitten) in the farming household. Much to the surprise and contempt of young Toss who see this intruder as invading her space and struggles to deal with this new figure pushed on to her family life. How will Toss deal with these new situations and her own emotions and feelings?
It’s an intriguing debut little film from New Zealand director and screenwriter Vincent Ward who I admit to not knowing anything about until now. But it’s great to see he has a nice selection of independent films under his belt and surprised to see he wrote the story for Alien 3 and was a producer on the Tom Cruise starring The Last Samurai.
Now if I’m totally honest I do find it hard to recommend this film to you as it won’t be for everyone’s tastes. It slow, it’s real slow and not a lot really happens but don’t be put off. If you like independent films on the art house side of the tracks, films that are filled with messages and dotted about poetry and symbolism, then you will find much beauty in the minimalist and a superb performance by little Fiona Kay who’s innocent wonder and imagination is portrayed perfectly as she comes of age in the bleakness.
Now don’t get me wrong, this film isn’t on par with or have anything really in common with but I got a sense from the images, especially in the landscapes and the gritty dirty anguish from the land with the film Aguirre, the Wrath of God. Think some of the dream likeness reminded me also. Vigil is filled with dream sequences and surreal moments that feel real and otherworldly at the same time, from a derelict car sanctuary, to battling jousts and mechanical owls to framed shots with dashes of red and the wide-eyed innocence of youth.
Toss – “Beans up your bum”
Funny as I wasn’t going to do a post on this one but it stayed with me the last few days as I pottered and pondered around at work. So here it is. Have you seen it before? It is on Youtube in full at the time of writing.
Keep checking the gems on the screen and have fun.