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it feels claustrophobic and abandoned. The characters are shown as isolated from the outside world, and from each other - almost in reference to the Man Alone Myth - however, this does not lead to strength of character and body, but toward death, lunacy and resignation. The characters are never shown in sunlight, unless through a reflection from the window they are looking out of, and they seem forever trapped within the gloomy confines of the valley. The horizon is restricted to the hilltops, and beyond that is cloud, fog and rain. The result is remoteness not with expansive grandeur, but nightmarish isolation. Another New Zealand myth explored with in Vigil is that of a helpful, supportive, neighbourly community, where it is never too much trouble to help those that need it. In Vigil, the only time the community is shown is at the funeral of Toss’s father, and there they remain faceless and remote. The only help the family receive is from the threatening stranger Ethan, that turns Toss’ already chaotic world on its head. There is no supportive family, not friendly neighbour; the family is very much alone in their isolated valley. The world in which the child/woman Toss exists is far from the idyllic childhood New Zealand children are supposed to have. She lives in the country yes, but she feels threatened by this land - her safety line to the land, killed by the land itself - it is no longer a protective place to be. So she begins to stand vigil, watching over her land, the only home she has ever known, yet one menaced by death and intrusion. From this frightening and changing world, Toss retreats to her imagination, where her father is still alive, and duels Ethan on the back of his white horse. She performs rituals, bastardised versions of Christianity, to attempt to bring her father back to life, burying a plate of food in the mud next to the tree she planted for her dad. She uses games and chants to convince herself that she is not alone - playing Hide and Seek with her dead father “one potato, two potato, three potato, four” (Vigil, 1984). She creates a shrine for father and prays at it - hoping that magic will bring him back. Mostly she just watches, hoping to catch a glimpse of her father, and she stands vigil, waiting for him to return - it is a vigil she ultimately fails. It seems to me that her belief in magic and its ultimate exposure as a sham are a metaphor for her passage from childhood to adult. The failure of her magic, anger at God and her acknowledgement of death moves her into the reality of the adult world, one that is much more cerebral than the fantasy she created for herself. Vigil is a film that through the personal fantasies of a child explores the cultural fantasies of New Zealanders. The world Toss believes in is not the one she lives in, much as the country New Zealanders believe in, bares little resemblance to the one we live in.

First Son: Memory and Myth, an adjustment of faith  

First Son is an exploration of cultural change in New Zealand from the 1940s till the 1980susing textiles as medium for communication. It ai...

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