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A man climbs down a dangerous ravine to rescue a stranded sheep as a young girl wrapped in heavy clothing and a hooded stocking cap looks on. She's the man's daughter, 12-year-old Toss (played with a mix of ease and intensity by Fiona Kay), and when she suddenly drops her eyes in shock and sadness we know he's fallen to his death. The setting of Vincent Ward's first film is an isolated sheep farm in the hills of New Zealand, a hard, primeval, almost timeless world surrounded by an omnipresent fog that envelops the farm like an island. A bearded stranger, a dark, terse character named Birdie (Bill Kerr), is hired to help out on the farm, much to the disdain of widowed Elizabeth (Penelope Stewart), devastated and worn emotionally raw by the hard life. She simply wants to sell the place and get away, but her conflict with Birdie brings them to an inevitable collision. Moody and portentous, it's a slow-moving film with little dramatic action but rich in vivid imagery and thick with mood. In many ways, it seems like a dry run for Ward's follow-up, The Navigator, an even more visually impressive film that mixes the medieval and the modern as seen through the eyes of a child.

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FLV1241 Vigil VHS (1984/Vincent Ward) $11.99