Radiance (1998)

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Released 18-Nov-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1998
Running Time 80:03
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Rachel Perkins
Eclipse Films
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Rachel Maza
Deborah Mailman
Trisha Morton-Thomas
Russell Kiefel
Ben Oxenbould
Case ?
RPI $19.95 Music Alistair Jones

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Screen, not known whether Pan & Scan or Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     When I first finished watching Radiance I felt vaguely dissatisfied. The script was clever, the acting superb, the story intriguing, so why did it all feel somehow underdone?

     While contemplating the issue, I left my reviewing for a day or so to see if I could put my finger on the missing element. Scenes from the film welled into my mind over and over again, and I've now realised that it was the low key presentation that had fooled me. And now, in retrospect, the story has gelled in me much more, and I've gone back already and re-viewed the film with a great deal of satisfaction. Perhaps that's the mark of a good story - that it can reveal itself slowly rather than immediately gratifying a viewer, with no latent depths to plumb.

     The story is essentially simple. Three women with the same mother but different fathers are united after many years apart in their Queensland childhood home to attend their mother's funeral. The sophisticated opera diva, Cressy (Rachel Maza) and the ditzy dreamer, Nona (Deborah Mailman) join the embittered Mae (Trisha Morton-Thomas) to send off their mother, but the reunion brings many ghosts to the surface, and the women must confront their pasts and skewed versions of reality in order to emerge as whole beings.

     Louis Nowra wrote this script originally as a stage play, and its origins are still very apparent. This is essentially a dialogue based story, with some wonderfully witty and insightful comments bandied about. For each woman, their image of their mother and their life is vastly disparate from the others. Nowra himself describes Radiance as a "ghost story" and it's an apt description, although not in the traditional fashion. Each woman is haunted by her own unique set of shadows from the past and they must each shed radiant light on their past pain in order to shine in the future. For Mae, who has been the dutiful daughter of a dementia-plagued mother, her life has been made hell by madness, lack of appreciation and disappointment. Cressy has escaped the small town blues, but has never reconciled from her feelings of abandonment at being removed from her mother to be raised in an orphanage. She also has deeper secrets that she must reveal, and the shadow of these threaten all the women. Young Nona is perpetually deluded and a drifter who has no anchorage in her existence. The product of secrets and lies, her self-identity is a tissue of fantasies and idealisms which she will be forced to demystify. The performances of Morton-Thomas, Maza and Mailman are nothing short of superb. They represent a trinity of aboriginal actors of a quality without peer. They infuse their performances with integrity, honesty and a dimensional reality that take complete ownership of the stories they are portraying. The tensions, resentments, agonies and fleeting moments of warmth between the three women are palpably real throughout.

     The film is a watershed for Australian cinematic portrayal of aboriginal women. This is not a self-conscious or socially political film. It is a film about three women who happen to be aboriginal. Surely this approach has been a long time coming, and it is a refreshing innovation.

     Radiance is an exploratory work: What makes relationships? What binds us into a family? What do we have to leave behind in order to move forward? Whilst frequently delving into the painful world of abuse and guilty secrets, it travels with a wit and warmth that allows it to avoid an overly moribund approach. It is a low key presentation that may well resonate with you for some time.

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Transfer Quality


     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is therefore not 16x9 enhanced.

    The overall luminance of this transfer is quite acceptable. There is a mild amount of low level noise, but shadow detail is generally good. It presents as a very crisp transfer, with fine grain levels and good contrast.

     The colours were rich and clear. There were scenes which appeared grossly overexposed, but it seems that this was a creative decision rather than a particular fault.

     There were no MPEG artefacts, and few film-to-video artefacts, apart from occasional aliasing, although this was not significantly distracting.

     There were no subtitles available on this disc.

     This disc is dual layered, but I detected no layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     There is a single English Digital 2.0 surround-encoded soundtrack available on this disc.

     Dialogue was mostly clear and audio sync was generally good, although there were a couple of occasions where the looped audio appeared different to the original sound, which looked momentarily a little strange.

     The musical score was workable but not remarkable.

     Overall, the surround sound experience was flat and nondirectional. Occasionally, higher pitched sounds translated a little shrilly, but it was within the bounds of acceptability. There was little subwoofer activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     The menu design is themed around the movie. It is fairly easy to navigate.

Theatrical Trailer

     This is of excellent quality, being presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced and with Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound.


     This runs for 15:17 minutes and is basically an extended promotional piece for the movie, with some behind the scenes details. It is presented in a varying aspect ratio, with the video material presented at 1.33:1 windowboxed and the film footage presented letterboxed. This featurette has Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded sound.


     Questions and answers with cast & crew:

Trailer (2:20)


     16 photographs from the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This disc does not appear to be available in regions other than R4.


     The themes of this story are almost operatic in their scope and scale, and yet, it is presented in quite a low key fashion. This works well, and the film resonates and percolates in the mind of the viewer. A recommended film.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Aspect Ratio - cztery
Movie blew me away - cztery
an excellent movie - cztery