Vigil (1984) Bleak New Zealand Surreal Coming Of Age Drama

Vigil (1984) poster film movie vincent ward new zealand

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.

Vigil (1984) vincent ward new zealand landscape. tree

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.

Vigil (1984) Toss (Fiona Kay) lisa

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.

Vigil (1984) Toss (Fiona Kay)Birdie (Bill Kerr) Ethan (Frank Whitten)Vigil (1984) Toss (Fiona Kay) Elizabeth (Penelope Stewart)

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?

Vigil (1984) vincent ward new zealand landscapeVigil (1984) Toss (Fiona Kay) lisa binoculars field rain

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.

Vigil (1984) Toss (Fiona Kay)Birdie (Bill Kerr) Ethan machine

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.

Vigil (1984) vincent ward new zealand landscape stranger mountainsVigil (1984) landscape Birdie (Bill Kerr) Ethan (Frank Whitten)

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”

Vigil (1984) Toss (Fiona Kay) lisa derelict car

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.

Mister Wolfie.

3 thoughts on “Vigil (1984) Bleak New Zealand Surreal Coming Of Age Drama

  1. I still didn’t get whether it was a post-apocalyptic film or now… 😃 Interesting though. I haven’t heard of it either. It has only 362 votes on IMDb, how did you find it?

    Off-topic – given that now I consider you a New Zealand cinema expert, have you seen The Quiet Earth? It was released one year later…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I have and incidentally “The Quiet Earth” was on my list of films to do for this here blog before my focus turned to new to me films. The Quiet Earth is in my drafts and I keep meaning to re-visit it for the 3rd time. Real ace film. On Vigil, no it wasn’t a post-apocalyptic world but just a poor bleak place out in the countryside. How did I find it? I’m always scratching around on IMDB going from connection to connection after watching a film and digging for something new. Thanks for checking on in and the film recommend 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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