I have been a fan of Vincent Ward for many years now. The first film I ever saw of his was The Map Of The Human Heart way back in 1993 and it has since been a movie I return to often. Over the years I have seen all of his films and with each one he releases I am struck with a new sense of awe as he steadily works his way into my list of favourite all time directors.
As a fan I get frustrated that his films don’t reach more people. His most recent film, Rain Of the Children, did the rounds at various film festivals around the world and won all kinds of awards but never received a theatrical release at all. His previous film, River Queen, found itself on a few select boutique screens around the country despite it’s star power of Samantha Morton, Stephen Rea and Keifer Sutherland straight off the popularity of 24.
In fact the only film of his to receive wide recognition was What Dreams May Come, starring Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding Jr & Max Von Sydow. Obviously its a-list star power is what drove that film and lead it to several Academy Awards. Anyone who has seen that film, whether they love or loath it, will get a pretty good idea of the level of wonder Vincent Ward brings to his films.
I think the reason why his guy resonates with me so much is because of that wonder. His films are large & poetic, bold & elegant, sweeping & majestic and above all, they feel personal. Rain Of The Children is his most personal to date as he revisits a subject he documented 30 years ago. Through narration, dramatization, first hand accounts and archives Ward himself presents the film to us and makes it perfectly clear just how important this story is to him. Capturing an important time in New Zealand’s indigenous history, he tells the story of a woman who’s life has to be heard to be believed. From birth through to her death, Ward strives to bring this amazing woman to our attention and by weaving multiple film making methods together he has produced possibly his most important film.
Another interesting fact that few people know is that Ward was originally attached to direct Alien 3. After spending several years on the project he was eventually fired and replaced with David Fincher. Very little of Ward’s original script made its way into the final film, however, he still received a “story by” credit. It was revealed in a retrospect documentary years later that Ward’s script was too bold and daring for the franchise and producers were too scared to take such a risk. Ironically they would have maintained the credibility that the first two Alien films gave the series had they kept Ward on board. His story told of a society living in a wooden infrastructure below the surface of a young planet. An alien finds its way into the sewage system and the usual Ripley Vs Alien scenario ensues.
So anyway, if you’ve read this far then you are probably a fellow movie geek… perhaps you know Ward’s work well. Or maybe you know very little and I have encouraged you to seek out some of his films. They’re not all easy to come by but I highly recommend getting stuck into it.