Although Australian musician Lisa Gerrard has gained worldwide success mostly through her work on film scores her name is still unknown to a broad audience. Vieraugen Kino editor Marius Joa, being an admirer of Gerrard’s work for about three years, has watched the documentary Sanctuary: Lisa Gerrard on DVD that provides a deep insight into Lisa Gerrard’s life and work.

Music Documentary UK 2006. Directed by Clive Collier. 90 minutes (PAL-DVD).

Lisa Gerrard, born 1961 in Australia of Anglo-Irish parents, is a unique singer and composer far from the mainstream. After nearly twenty glorious years (1981 to 1998) as one half of the multi-talented Duo Dead Can Dance which she formed with Brendan Perry (born 1958), Gerrard started a successful solo career and became internationally famous for her various contributions to film scores, e.g. Gladiator (for which she won a Golden Globe) or The Insider. Since 1995 three solo or collaborative albums have been released with the fourth one, The Silver Tree, just released. A significant characteristic of her work is her use of an own wordless language when Gerrard does not sing in exotic languages, e.g. Old Gaelic or Ancient Hebrew.

From British filmmaker Clive Collier of Storm Creation now comes a intimate portrait of Lisa Gerrard’s music including interviews with the extremely gifted singer herself, her family, friends and numerous collaborators like Brendan Perry, Hans Zimmer and Michael Mann. Filmed over the period of thirteen months the documentary gives a deep insight in Ms Gerrard’s approach of composing, performing and her personal inspirations with comments and reflections from her musical partners from her career.

The documentary starts with disturbing, fast-paced images of war, heavy traffic, dealing with the inner problems of today’s modern world in the west and what function Lisa Gerrard’s music has in this. The story continues with aspects of Gerrard’s childhood and youth. Especially interesting are the bits of interviews with her parents Nannette and John Gerrard and the anecdotes in which for example her mother tells the story of young Lisa presenting herself to a classical singing teacher in Melbourne who replied that he would not be able to give her singing lessons because of her unusual style of singing. Lisa Gerrard also explains how the early death of her brother Mark had an effect on her work. Musical partners like the film composers Harry Gregson-Willams, Hans Zimmer, Jeff Rona, Graeme Revell and the filmmakers Ridley Scott (Gladiator), Michael Mann (Heat, The Insider), Niki Caro (Whale Rider), Mark Magidson (Baraka, Towards The Within), film editor Pietro Scalia and actor Russell Crowe tell about their views of Gerrard’s work and how they came to work with her.

Ms Gerrard tells about how she came to work as score composer/singer and about the nature of relationship she had with her Dead Can Dance partner Brendan Perry. The culture shock of moving from “affluent Melbourne” to the ghetto-like Isle of Dogs in London, their sources of inspiration, living on very little money, their differences and all the aspects of Dead Can Dance. Why the ground breaking duo suddenly split up in 1998 is not fully explained leaving it a mystery. But Gerrard explains how she came back to contact with Perry in 2005. The film shows scenes from the rehearsal sessions of Dead Can Dance for their reuniting 2005 world tour of Europe and North America. Sound mixer Dave Badrick describes his impressions of the first concert in Dublin.
Told by Gerrard and Niki Caro, the director of prize-winning and Oscar-nominated film Whale Rider , are the circumstances under what the two came to work together. This part also delivers a sort of insight on Lisa Gerrard’s methods of working although there are no scenes included with Ms Gerrard sitting in her studio and directly explaining the way she deals with her work.

Still from the Video Come Tenderness, directed by Lisa Gerrard and Clive Collier.

Sanctuary: Lisa Gerrard succeeds in showing the different perceptions of Lisa Gerrard, the angel-/sirenlike entity she portrays on stage, the warm-hearted woman that moves people with her unique music, the thoughtful and life experienced person and the family-oriented mother. But maybe these aspects do not really cope with her complex individual being.

The film is filled with abstract and symbolic images created with visual effects that give the whole documentary the touch of a complex piece of art. Clive Collier is not only the director but also filmed, edited, produced and created the stunning visual effects. The music and sound editing is close to perfection. Throughout the film we hear and see various excerpts of Lisa Gerrard’s music with some previously unreleased material and scenes from films she collaborated with.

In the interview, featured on the DVD, director Clive Collier explains the things that were omitted in his portrait. The everyday aspects of Ms Gerrard’s life were left out so that she and her family can still live their retreated private life. Her sense of humour is indicated here with some outtakes from filming.

Unfortunately this unique journey to the world of Lisa Gerrard ends after 90 minutes. Afterwards you just want to see more. But the complexity can make you watch it again and again. Sadly there’s no up to date interview with Brendan Perry but fans should be appreciative of him not wanting to be interviewed for this film.

Conclusion: Sanctuary: Lisa Gerrard is a beautiful, complex and very well-made portrait of the great artist Lisa Gerrard. 9 out of 10 points*.

Lisa Gerrard Solo /Collaborations Discography:

1995 The Mirror Pool
1998 Duality (with Pieter Bourke)
2004 Immortal Memory (with Patrick Cassidy)
2006 The Silver Tree

DVD Features:

Languages: English (Dolby Stereo)
Subtitles: English, French and Song Titles

Special Features:
Interview with Director Clive Collier
Video for the new song Come Tenderness from the upcoming album The Silver Tree
Photo Gallery
Full Discography (Solo/Collaborations, Dead Can Dance, Film Soundtracks)
Promo feature about the Mali Project (charity project by Young Australians supported by Lisa Gerrard)

The DVD is available from
For more about Lisa Gerrard and her work click
Coming soon: an exclusive interview with Clive Collier.

Marius Joa, October 17th 2006, Images: Clive Collier/Storm Creation/Lisa Gerrard Productions.

*Explanation of the Vieraugen Kino rating system:

10 = Terrific
9 = Outstanding
8 = Very good
7 = Well worth seeing
6 = Acceptable
5 = Average
4 = A bit lame
3 = Disappointing
2 = Just bad
1 = Disastrous

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4 Antworten zu „Sanctuary“

  1. […] Read the review: Sanctuary: Lisa Gerrard. […]

  2. […] The Producers 2005 Call Of Cthulhu 2006 Sanctuary: Lisa Gerrard 2006 A Scanner Darkly 2007 Once 2007 Vorne ist verdammt weit weg 2009 Coraline 2009 Inglourious […]

  3. […] Sanctuary: Lisa Gerrard (2006) Für diese Dokumentation begleitete der britische Filmemacher Clive Collier für ein Jahr die australische Sängerin/Komponistin Lisa Gerrard (Dead Can Dance). Ein wundervolles Porträt. […]

  4. […] 1989 Moon Child (weibliche Hauptrolle) 1994 Toward the Within (Konzertfilm) 2006 Sanctuary: Lisa Gerrard […]

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