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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Paradise Road
Directed by Bruce Beresford
Fox 04/97 DVD/VHS Feature Film
R — prisoner of war brutality and violence

Paradise Road is a triumphant celebration of the human spirit in the face of suffering. Based on true incidents, this drama written and directed by Bruce Beresford recounts the experiences of a group of European, Australian, and American women who are captured by the Japanese during World War II after their ship is sunk while fleeing Singapore. They are put in jungle prison camps and subjected to a hellish existence of hard labor, little food, and a shortage of medical supplies.

In order to lift the women's spirits, Margaret Drummond (Pauline Collins), a kind-hearted former missionary to China, comes up with the idea of starting a vocal orchestra to sing classical compositions. She writes the scores and chooses Adrienne Pargiter (Glenn Close), a flinty survivor, to direct the singers. The project creates an oasis of beauty and transcendence amidst death, pain, and grief. Even the Japanese guards are awed by the music.

The top-drawer cast provides insights into the various paths to survival. Joanna Ter Steege plays a nun who is a multitalented peacemaker; Cate Blanchett is an Australian nurse who discovers great inner strength during the ordeal; Julianna Margulies is an American who almost joins the women who choose to service the Japanese officers for special privileges; and Frances McDormand is a clever German Jew who acts as the camp doctor.

Paradise Road is a deeply spiritual film that shows how creativity and beauty can soothe the soul even in the worst situation imaginable. The film also honors the driving force that keeps people alive and thriving — hope.


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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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