Vigil (1984)

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Released 12-Jan-2005

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio
Short Film-In Spring One Plants Alone
Short Film-A State Of Siege
Trailer-Vincent Ward Trailer Reel
Trailer-The Boys, The Corporation, The Bank, Rain
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1984
Running Time 86:07
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Vincent Ward

Madman Entertainment
Starring Penelope Stewart
Frank Whitten
Bill Kerr
Fiona Kay
Gordon Shields
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Jack Body

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Vigil is the story of a young girl called Toss (Fiona Kay) and is a coming of age tale set against the backdrop of personal tragedy, the fear of the unknown and the misty and rain-filled hills of the New Zealand high country.

    12-year-old Toss (her real name is Lisa, but this real tomboy prefers Toss) lives with her mother, father and grandfather on a sheep farm in the New Zealand hills.

    In the opening minutes tragedy strikes when her father falls to his death while he and Toss are out high in the mountains trying to rescue a sheep that has fallen down a ravine. Unable to handle the farm by herself, Toss' mother, Elizabeth (Penelope Stewart), decides to put the farm up for sale, but the grandfather (played by Bill Kerr) has other ideas and hires Ethan (Frank Whitten), the poacher who was roaming the hills when Toss's father died and carried his body back to the farm.

    The death her father and Ethan's arrival create stirrings in Toss. Her mother initially hates this newcomer to the farm, but Toss is having other ideas and takes a shine to him. Her own awakening emotions are further stirred when she sees the initial bitter tension between Ethan and her mother actually blossom into a full-blown sexual affair. Toss' own sexuality is starting to stir and she is having difficulty comprehending what is going on about her as the farm and her mother's opinion of this new stranger lurch dramatically from one extreme to the other.

    A dark, moody, almost miserable look to this film create an absorbing, though at time quite slow-burning tale of what emotions can rage through the mind and body of a 12-year-old girl. Often this is done without the use of dialogue, with a haunting (though at times obvious mid 80s) score and clever use of lighting and framing. An interesting film that won't appeal to all, but it is an important part of New Zealand film history nonetheless.

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Transfer Quality


    This transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    While not the sharpest of transfers, it is adequate enough, but certainly not in the category of something modern. Shadow detail is handled well enough though on occasion does suffer marginally. Grain is abundant, but does add to the rough and difficult living theme of the film. Thankfully it is not an issue and there is no low level noise.

    Colours are incredibly drab and nondescript. Much of the action takes place in dim interiors or the misty rain-filled outdoors of the New Zealand high country. The skin tones hold up reasonably well, but the black level tends a little to the grey side. If you are looking for a vibrant film, best move along to something else.

    There are no compression artefacts. Aliasing is also absent but the transfer is not sharp enough for this to be a problem. Film artefacts are pretty well inconspicuous which is quite remarkable. Telecine wobble is a major issue with the opening credits displaying a nauseating lurch and a gentle wobble then evident throughout the whole film. The worst example during the film occurs at 25:43.

    Sadly there are no subtitles available.

    This disc is single sided and dual layered, with the extras on one layer and the film on the other so there is no layer change.

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


    Only one soundtrack is present, an English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo effort that sounds quite solid considering the age of the source. There is enough separation across the left and right channels to indicate a stereo soundtrack, and the low end is well represented.

    The dialogue does come across quite muffled at times. Without the benefit of subtitles I had to turn this up well past my normal review volume just to hear what was going on.

    There is obviously no surround channel nor subwoofer use.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio

Short Film - In Spring One Plants Alone

    Not really a short film as such, since it runs for 49:16. This is the story of an 84-year-old Maori woman as she struggles to care for her 40-year-old handicapped son. Based on a true story.

Short Film - A State Of Siege

    Another short film with the not-so-short running time of 43:05. This is based on the novel by renowned New Zealand writer Janet Frame. It tells the story of a teacher who is assailed by doubt and an unseen menace during her search for a new way of seeing.


    15 photos taken from the film. They are presented in a full screen window so are of decent enough size.

Trailer - Vincent Ward Trailer Reel

    Trailers for two other Vincent Ward films, The Navigator and What Dreams May Come.


    Bonus Madman trailers for The Corporation, The Boys, The Bank and Rain.

R4 vs R1

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

    This film does not appear to be available in Region 1.


    Vigil is a slow-moving deeply personal coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of personal tragedy, the fear of the unknown, and the stark, damp beauty of the New Zealand high country.

    The video and audio quality are quite good considering the age and the independent nature of the production. The extras are also excellent, with the two short films almost good enough to be sold on their own.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDDenon DVD-3910, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

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