A Medieval Odyssey

 (Vincent Ward, New Zealand, 1988) 90 minutes


Director: Vincent Ward
Producer: John Maynard
Screenplay: Vincent Ward,
Kelly Lyons, Geoff Chapple
Photography: Geoffrey Simpson
Editor: John Scott
Music: Davood A Tabrizi
Bruce Lyons (Conner)
Chris Haywood (Arno)
Hamish McFarlane (Griffin)
Marshall Napier (Searle)
Noel Appleby (Ulf)
Paul Livingston (Martin)
Sarah Pierse (Linnet)

Reviews and notes

THE NAVIGATOR is a remarkable second feature from director Vincent Ward, whose first full-Iength film, Vigil, was selected for main competition at Cannes In 1984. It is remarkable because of its absorbing story that links medieva! fears and fortunes to our times, while confirming Ward as an original talent.

The story begins in Cumbria in 1348, the year of the Black Death. A mining village lives in fear of the advancing plague. Young Griffin (Hamish McFarlane) is anxious for the return of his beloved, much-older brother Connor (Bruce Lyons) from the outside world. He is haunted by a dream about a journey, a quest to a great cathedral in a celestial city, and a figure about to fall from a steeple. When his brother returns to the village with tales of impending doom, 9-year-old Griffin recounts his dream which reveals a way whereby the community might escape.

The two brothers, with four comrades, set out on the journey fired by Griffin's prophetic vision. It takes them to a city of the late 1980s and on a mission against time if their village is to be saved. There is no triumph without sacrifice - in the dream and in reality.

The formidable skills of Ward are shown in the way his story works, not only as adventure, but as the love story of two brothers and a parable of faith and religion. As the medievals joust with the paraphernalia of a night-bound, modern city, in their striving to reach the cathedral at its heart, Ward conjures a series of striking sequences and images.

The best affirm, invariably with humor, the timeless ascendancy of individual human spirit against the forces that would dehumanize, whether it is Griffin momentarily mesmerized by a wall of tv screens beaming their message or Connor hurtling through the night clinging to the front of a "monster" train. From the convincing detail of the 14th century locations to the uneasy, slumbering, contemporary metropolis, Ward's inspiration is apparent, and actors and technicians give their best.

Geoffrey Simpson's photography - stark black and white for the Cumbrian sequences, color for the enactment of Griffin's dream and visions - is of the highest order, with score by Iranian composer Davood Tabrizi (domiciled in Sydney) empathetic with the whole. Fine performances are delivered by McFarlane and Lyons, and also Marshall Napier and Paul Livingston as the Cumbrians Scarle and Martin.

THE NAVIGATOR should find broader acceptance and do greater business on and off the festival and art-house tracks, than the director's earlier Vigil. As the first coproduction between the New Zealand and Australian film commissions, following producer John Maynard's difficulty in raising all the necessary finance in Ward's homeland, it sets a sterling precedent for future joint enterprises in feature filmmaking between the two countries.
- Nic, Variety, 11 May 1988

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