Paradise Road (1997 film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Bruce Beresford|
|Produced by||Sue Milliken|
|Written by||Bruce Beresford
Johanna ter Steege
|Music by||Ross Edwards|
|Editing by||Tim Wellburn|
|Distributed by||Fox Searchlight Pictures|
|Running time||122 minutes|
Paradise Road is a 1997 film which tells the story of a group of English, American, Dutch and Australian women who are imprisoned by the Japanese in Sumatra during World War II. It was 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 (based on missionary Margaret Dryburgh), 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.
Basing his film on real events, Bruce Beresford tells the story of a vocal orchestra created by the women in a Japanese P.O.W. camp, a classic survivors' tale extolling women's ability to survive hardship and atrocity through perseverance, solidarity and creativity.
- Glenn Close as Adrienne Pargiter
- Frances McDormand as Dr. Verstak
- Pauline Collins as Daisy 'Margaret' Drummond (based on Margaret Dryburgh)
- Julianna Margulies as Topsy Merritt
- Cate Blanchett as Susan Macarthy
- Jennifer Ehle as Rosemary Leighton-Jones
- Wendy Hughes as Mrs. Dickson
- Johanna ter Steege as Sister Wilhelminia
- Elizabeth Spriggs as Mrs. Roberts
- Pamela Rabe as Mrs. Tippler
- Clyde Kusatsu as Sergeant Tomiashi, 'The Snake'
- Stan Egi as Captain Tanaka
- David Chung as The Interpreter
- Sab Shimono as Colonel Hirota
- Penne Hackforth-Jones as Mrs. Pike
The story is based on the testimony of Betty Jeffrey, as written in her 1944 book White Coolies. The 1965 book Song of Survival by Helen Colijn, another camp survivor, is not listed in the film's credits as being a source for this film, although Colijn is thanked for her help in the credits.
According to the media information kit for the film, Martin Meader & David Giles researched the story from 1991 and met with survivors from the camp and choir. Meader & Giles wrote the original screenplay which was titled, 'A Voice Cries Out'. Graeme Rattigan then joined Meader and Giles and together the three travelled the world, raising $8.275 million for the film. They met Beresford in London and he immediately became interested in the project. Together with Village Roadshow, Beresford took over the film, re-wrote the script and renamed the project, Paradise Road.
Beresford and producer Sue Milliken then did their own research of the story for over more than two years", by reading books and unpublished diaries on the subject and by interviewing survivors. Meader and Giles got a 'Story by' credit, and with Rattigan, they all received a Co-Executive Producer Credit. Their company, Planet Pictures, received an 'In Association With' credit. 
The film 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. Some criticism of the film's historical accuracy is discussed in an article by Professor Hank Nelson.
Fox provided $19 million of the budget with $6 million coming from Singapore businessman Andrew Yap.
The role of Dr Verstak was originally offered to Angelica Huston who demanded more profit share than the filmmakers were willing to give, so Frances McDormand was cast instead. The part of Margaret Drummond was to be played by Jean Simmons but she had to withdraw due to illness; the studio wanted Joan Plowright but she accepted another offer and Pauline Collins wound up being cast. Fox were reluctant to cast Cate Blanchett in the lead as she was relatively unknown at the time but Beresford insisted.
Production took place in Marrickville Sydney, Singapore, Port Douglas and Penang.
The film performed poorly commercially. However producer Sue Milliken says "it is the film I am most proud of".
- Milliken, Sue Selective Memory: My Life in Film
- Paradise Road at the Internet Movie Database
- Paradise Road at the National Film and Sound Archive
- New York Times review
- Roger Ebert review
- Los Angeles Times comment