Sunday, June 20, 2010

Film Review: Paradise Road - 1997

Paradise Road is a 1997 film which tells the story of a group of women who are imprisoned in Sumatra during World War II. It is directed by Bruce Beresford and stars Glenn Close as beatific Adrienne Pargiter, Frances McDormand as the brash Dr. Verstak, Pauline Collins as missionary Margaret Drummond, Julianna Margulies as American socialite Topsy Merritt, Jennifer Ehle as British doyenne and model Rosemary Leighton Jones, Cate Blanchett as Australian nurse Susan McCarthy and Elizabeth Spriggs as dowager Imogene Roberts.

The film examines and explores how, in times of adverse danger and suffering, people have the capacity to make it through by means of moral support and strength. The film highlights the atrocities of war. One example of this is the woman doused in petrol, then set alight. The film also effectively explores the control of the Sumatran society and the disregard for the sanctity of Red Cross services.

The story is based on the testimonies of Helen Colijn and Betty Jeffrey written in their books Song of Survival and White Coolies. It represents an alternative take on female imprisonment by the Japanese during World War II compared with BBC's dramatic offering from the early 1980s, Tenko.

This film was also an opportunity for many English, American and Australian defence and contractor families living in Penang Malaysia to be a part of a blockbuster. Many days of tramping barefoot through the streets of Georgetown and in the jungle, hot, dirty and tired added to the realism of the extras as they truly lived their parts.

I happened to catch this film (again) this weekend and it's still a good watch!

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