Tropical Gothic: Radiance Revisited
AbstractDirected by Rachel Perkins in 1998, Radiance is a film that deserves a sequel. The fates of Mae, Cressy and Nona after they head off up the road in Mae's old car is a cinematic mystery that intrigues me more the longer I live in North Queensland, the place in which both Radiance the film and its antecedent, Radiance the play (Nowra 1993), are set. This essay does not attempt to investigate, much less solve this mystery, but instead deepens it by considering aspects of location, setting and narration in the film, which was co-scripted by Perkins and Nowra, as well as the process of transposition from play to film (Nowra 2003). Setting, used to realise the gothic aspects of the drama, marks the transposition between these otherwise similar versions of Radiance. Even local audiences fall for the film's mesmerising re-creation of the sub-region of North Queensland selected as a setting and in spite of minimal allusions even to Queensland in the dialogue. The house, the canefields, the beach and the island are 'regional sign systems' (Whitlock 1994) that present a convincing depiction of the place in which we dwell; some even say these features look familiar. Perkins (2003) tells how she set the film in Queensland to honour the setting of the original play, and she speaks of travelling to Queensland to gain the "atmosphere" of the place, and to choose locations. In fact, the locations chosen were far from North Queensland: Agnes Water, Rosedale, Childers, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay, as well as Max Film Studies in Sydney, while Nora Island "is a fabrication although some people swear they recognize it," says Nowra (2000, xiii). Radiance therefore comes to stand for the remarkable power of film to suggest a reality, and for the importance of location in telling a story on film.
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