In a time of war, an extraordinary group of women turned a song of hope into a symphony of triumph. From the director of "Driving Miss Daisy" comes a true story of courage, triumph, friendship and strength starring Glenn ... more »Close ("Dangerous Liaisons"), Oscar®-Winner Frances McDormand (1996 Best Actress, "Fargo") and Emmy Award Winner Julianna Margulies (TV's "ER"). This compelling drama reveals the heroic actions of a group of women held prisoner by the Japanese during World War ll. These diverse women from different countries, speaking different languages, unite to form a vocal orchestra-creating a life affirming symphony of human voices.« less
Cameron B. (Transman1955) from ANCHORAGE, AK Reviewed on 10/18/2010...
This was a great movie. Based on a true story a group of women held captive by the Japanese during World War II, one women decides to start a choir and they start singing. In the beginning the Japanese are very much against this and these women are often punished and the short rations that they are on are even cut further. Finally the Japanese relent and even start really listening once their commanding officer starts to listen and at one point Japanese officials come and these women put on a show for them. This is a very heart warming story, keep your handkerchiefs handy.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Hilda S. from YORKTOWN, VA Reviewed on 5/4/2008...
Great performances by Glen Close and Cate Blanchett.
1 of 2 member(s) found this review helpful.
Duane S. (superpoet) from FORT WORTH, TX Reviewed on 5/3/2008...
This film, starring Glenn Close, I found interesting, but the cruelty of the Japanese highest officers and soldiers was horrific. The vocal orchestra that was started was truly a unique and humanitarian thing to devise. The formation of this did lift the film. The theme of any war is not a lifting experience, but the actors were very believable and the story line was well laid out and cohesive.
3 of 3 member(s) found this review helpful.
Jennifer L. (loyallioness) from JACKSONVILLE, FL Reviewed on 12/11/2007...
PMS Movie-This movie has so many tearjerking elements-torture, death, dying kids, foolish old ladies learning the true meaning of life before they succumb to malaria, death, executions of the innocent, death, haunting Beethoven melodies, death. Brace yourself for the brutality before the uplift. This one will leave you spent.-Cinematherapy
1 of 4 member(s) found this review helpful.
Microcosm of Japanese Actions Across WW II Asia
Lawrance M. Bernabo | 08/23/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A fascinating, moving film of European civilian women interned in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, *Paradise Road* tells a tale of courage and fortitude amidst the incredible barbarism of the war-period Japanese army. Kate Blanchett's character is especially moving. The film (and book) deal in microcosm with Japanese actions across Asia towards civilians - and not just Europeans of course (tragic as that was), but Asians, too. When I lived in Hong Kong and Singapore in the 90s, memories among locals were still very strong about Japanese behaviour - which across Asia resulted in the deaths of twenty million Asians: in Hong Kong Chinese villagers in the remoter New Territories at times still attacked Japanese tourist coach parties, while in Stanley, HK, I lived a few yards from the notorious site of the Stanley internment camp, where the Japanese brutally treated civilians, and had earlier, a few steps away at a nearby Stanley prep school, raped and bayonnetted the British nurses manning a make-shift hospital during the Battle of of Hong Kong. Camps for European civilian women existed across Asia, not just in "two" spots, as another reviewer suggests (these are simply all that are mentioned in the film) - in Sumatra, Java, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Borneo, etc, while the same reviwer's wondering if the Japanese raped anybody is simply lack of knowledge. Some fine books to read on the subject, as moving as *Paradise Road*, include Lavinia Warner's *Women Beyond the Wire*, Jean Gittins' *Stanley: Behind Barbed Wire* and George Wright-Nooth's *Prisoner of the Turnip Heads* ("Turnip Heads" is what the Cantonese of Hong Kong call the Japanese) - some are printed in Britain and available through Amazon's UK site. The film *Empire of the Sun* gives the view of a 12-year-old boy in a Japanese camp in China. The Lavinia Warner book gives a lot of details of Japanese war-time barbarism towards women in Singapore, Bangka island (an infamous massacre of twenty-odd Australian nurses) and the horrors of camps in Sumatra. Also, Dieuwke Wendelaar Bonga's *Eight Prison Camps* gives accounts of Dutch women imprisoned on Java, while Ernest Hillen's *The Way of a Boy* gives a view of Java internment camps and their horrors from the perspective of a young Dutch boy. The West may have enough to deal with remembering the atrocities of the Nazis in Europe, but really we have only ourselves to blame if we forget the other terrible atrocities commited in the Pacific by the Japanese. An investigation of the subject makes fascinating and moving reading, and a good place to start is *Paradise Road*."
A woman's vocal orchestra in a Japanese internment camp
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 11/21/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Right before the fall of Singapore in February 1942 a group of women, predominantly English but also including Dutch, Australian, and other Western nationalities, were evacuated on ship to Australia. However, when the ship is sunk they are captured by the Japanese and put in an internment camp. Over the rest of the war they suffer the attendant horrors of being the prisoners of the Japanese and they rise above their condition by creating a vocal orchestra, a chorus that performs hummed renditions of the works of Mozart, Dvorak, and Ravel.
There are certainly some memorable and harrowing moments in "Paradise Road" reflecting the brutality of life in a Japanese internment camp. Such horrors are supposed to stand in contrast to the beautiful music these women created in their prison camp by putting together a vocal orchestra. However, at the end of this 1999 film from director Bruce Beresford we learn that the vocal orchestra only performed for a couple of years before half its members had died, and we simply do not get the sense that things were that bad in this film, even though intellectually we know this must have been the case. As is pointed out, the Japanese do not like Europeans, prisoners, or women, and of course with these women we have all three. In contrast, one of the women refuses to hate her captors, explaining: "I just can't bring myself to hate people. The worse they behave, the sorrier I feel for them."
I suppose it is politically incorrect today to show the brutality the Japanese displayed in dealing with prisoners. The concept of surrender was an anathema to the Japanese and soldiers who surrendered rather than die in battle or kill themselves were seen as being without honor. With Holocaust stories there is a distinction to be made between the Nazis and the Germans, but the culture and political history of the Japanese do not allow for such a distinction. In the film the brutality is reduced to a couple of key figures, Sergeant Tomiashi (Clyde Kusatsu), called "The Snake" by the women, and Captain Tanaka (Stan Egi), who are portrayed as being basically sadistic, although "The Snake" becomes a symbol of the possibility of redemption in the film. Sab Shimono is Colonel Hirota, the camp commander, but he has little to say until the end of the film and simply symbolizes the power that must be obeyed. The focal character on the Japanese side becomes his interpreter (David Chung), who reminds me of the herald in Euripides' "Trojan Women": the man who must announce policies of which he does not approve.
It is important that the vocal orchestra be seen as an attempt to create grace and beauty in the depth of Hell, and not simply as a response to the long years of mind numbing prison labor. But I think that the extent to which that key connection is recognized in this film is up to the willingness of the audience to couch it that way. I also find myself wishing that there was more of the vocal orchestra performing (the music is performed using the original scores, which survived the war), and must admit I was survived there was not at least one montage contrasting the gloriously beautiful music with the indignities of life in that camp.
The one area where there is no room for complaint is in the stellar ensemble cast of actresses, most of whom appear for most of the film without makeup (in the everyday sense of the word). Glenn Close bring a strong sense of resolve and reserve to the role of the orchestra's conductor, Adrienne Pargiter, aided by Pauline Collins as Margaret Drummond, a missionary who is able to recreate the necessary sheet music from memory. Even without the makeup many of the faces are recognizable: Cate Blanchett plays Susan Macarthy, a nurse, Julianna Margulies is the American Topsy Merritt, who is tempted by the relative life of luxury offered to women who agree to be prostitutes for the Japanese, Jennifer Ehle is Rosemary Leighton-Jones, longing for her husband, Elizabeth Spriggs is Mrs. Roberts, who cares more about her status and dog than her daughters or anyone else, Wendy Hughes is the stoic Mrs. Dickson, Johanna ter Steege is Sister Wilhelminia, who wanted to be an engineer and not a nun, and Frances McDormand is Dr. Verstak, a German Jew who escaped the Nazis only to become the guest of their Eastern allies.
In the end "Paradise Road" is not as memorable as I might have hoped, but it is certainly worth watching and should not be dismissed as simply being a counterpart of sorts to the "Playing for Time," about the orchestra comprised of Jewish women at Auschwitz. Even if it is inadequate to the task of creating truly transcendent moments, we certainly can understand and appreciate that once upon a time, in the real world, a group of real women actually achieved such moments."
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I just watched Paradise Road on DVD and was very disappointed. I didn't see scenes I remember in the VHS version. I like the movie very much, but would not have purchased a version that was shortened. There are two scenes I remember from renting the movie previously. Those being where Jennifer Ehle meets her husband while he is attempting to escape the men's camp, and also the scene where Miss Drummond is buried and Glenn Close's character begins to hum and tap the Bolero piece the orchestra did. I have no idea why Fox would delete those scenes. The cover of the DVD indicates the movie is 132 minutes long, however my counter stopped at 110 or so. So please be forwarned, if you purchase the DVD you will not get the whole movie. Other than that, I would say the movie is worth having in a home collection."
Paradise road - truly moving
Lawrance M. Bernabo | 01/10/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have seen many movies about the hardships endured by prisoners in camps during World War II, but this particular film truly moved me. It was so inspiring to see how these women, living in such horrible circumstances, could still find the time and the courage to lift their voices in song. I have seen the movie several times and am anxious to purchase a copy so that I can share it with friends and family. There is also a book which relates the true story of these women and their remarkable achievement. A true portrayal of how the human spirit can endure and soar!"
What a movie!
Claire K. Sully | NJ USA | 12/06/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is must see if you are at all interested in the true story that it is based on. It is about a group of women that are held in a Japanese camp during the second world war. They start to form a voice orchestra to keep themselves happy and eventually overcome hardship. It is a fabulous film ...I 've seen it about 10 times."