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Passion (1999)

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The complicated relationship between Percy Grainger, famous Australian-born early 20th century folk musician, and his abusive unstable mother that lead to his interest in S&M, instability and failed relationships with women.



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Title: Passion (1999)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Percy Grainger
Rose Grainger
Karen Holten
Alfhild de Luce
Herman Sandby
Linda Cropper ...
Mrs. Lowery
Bille Brown ...
John Grainger
Martin Jacobs ...
Fiona Press ...
Jenny the Maid
Genevieve Mooy ...
Ada Crossley
Peter Whitford ...
Tour Manager
Jamie Croft ...
Barrow Boy
Claire Paradine ...
Branden Zandstra ...
Boy in park


The complicated relationship between Percy Grainger, famous Australian-born early 20th century folk musician, and his abusive unstable mother that lead to his interest in S&M, instability and failed relationships with women.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Between music and love lies a secret obsession. See more »


Biography | Drama | Music


See all certifications »




Release Date:

1 July 1999 (Australia)  »

Also Known As:

Passion: The Story of Percy Grainger  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

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User Reviews

A perplexed story of Percy Grainger(Aldridge)and his unusual lifestyle
5 July 1999 | by (Sydney Australia) – See all my reviews

Percy Grainger was an American composer born in Australia, July 8 1882.

He was educated in Melbourne until he was 10 years of age. He was then whisked off to Frankfurt, to attend the conservatory in that wonderful city, and later wooed the audiences in England and America with his flamboyant showmanship, reviving and rearranging traditional old songs such as Danny Boy, but contrasting this side by dabbling in jazz and synthetiser music. Australia did not see much of him.

Peter Duncan the Director, has given us Grainger (Roxburgh) as an energetic, health fanatic doing his exercises in a terry-towelling outfit he made himself. He has also given us the other sides of Grainger, the kinkier side of Percy, sado- masochistic, his sessions of flagellation in his bedroom overheard by his Mother (Hershey), and his strong unusual affection and bond (as rumoured by others) to his Mother. Rosie as he called her; but Percy insisted it was a normal Mother and Son relationship (he treated her like his sister).

Richard Roxburgh (Percy Grainger), Claudia Karvan (Alfhild), Barbara Hershey (Rose Grainger), Simon Burke (Sandby), and Emily Wolf (Karen Holten), and others, all put in good performances of their characters.

Roxburgh is a true sturdy-looking resemblance to his real life counterpart, Grainger.

Roxburgh turns in a good performance as the eccentric, and sometimes a given impression of the immaturity of the genius of Percy Grainger in this new Australian drama, Passion.

But the energy emulated by Roxburgh is not enough to save a film, which despite the reasons for making this movie about perversity, pain and rumoured incest is shallow of it's plot.

The plot, or lack of it, seldom shows, no meat on the bone, in fact the movie is devoid of any purpose other than personifying a very small part of Grainger's life, not a lot happens at some or most of the time. Scenes go on and on like a soap opera and pop up with a lack of continuity and connection to the previous scene, and is more a talk type movie than action.

The scene of Grainger and Holten whipping one another is neither graphic nor detailed. The actors are like symbolic statues of supposingly gratification of mutual flagellation, but hardly move other than to show us their whip marks. They are posing. Grainger and Wolf, in their research, visited a salon at Coogee NSW, to learn the finer detail of bondage, whippings, masochism. The camera shoots, editing and all the other necessaries to make a film, didn't help them disclose on film, the information they gathered at the salon.

Then along comes the scene where the two embrace in an ultimate intimate sexual intercourse, the result of their whippings to each other. Mmm oh yeah!, what could have been done with those scenes to fit into the censorship, and make the film for what it was intended. This could be construed as artily directed, probably a cause of the censorship giving it an R rating, and is problematic of interpretation of Australian censorship rules, which Duncan appealed against. This scene falls well below a standard of some of the more dreadful of the B type movies. The R rating does seem to characterise the movie as being more explicit than it really is.

Any plot that can be uncovered, are scenes of Graingers' dalliances of encounters like the one with his best friend's Herman Sandby (Simon Burke) fiancé Alfhid ((Claudia Karvan). Alfhid could not be converted to Percy's lifestyle, and could see through him for what he was.

According to Barbara Hershey, she took the role because she had never seen this type of relationship on film before, a relationship between a man and a woman who happened to be Mother and Son, and it was a challenge to her.

One of the concerns of Barbara Hershey was age, how a 51- year-old actress could be seen as a mother to 37-year-old actor. It didn't come off, even though Rosie looked young for her age, as they said in Percy's biography. They looked like brother and elder sister in many of the scenes, lacking on screen chemistry between the two characters, except when the camera wasn't kind to Barbara. Her portrayal of a Mother extremely ill with a philandering husbands' syphilis was very moving, where she was able to give the scenes character, of being distraught for being unable to touch her son from his birth in case she infected him. Hershey's climatic scene in her distress is heart warming and sincere, and well done, in fact a small cutaneous lesion ( a symptom of this disease) can be seen on her right bottom lip. Purposely done, I wonder?.

Barbara for her career should have kept the name of Seagull, it might have proved helpful for her.

Roxburgh's golden, woolly, Aryan, Anglo- Saxon hairstyle didn't do much to improve the difference in age scenario as he would be 32 years in 1914, and crows feet near the eyes are hard to cover with make-up. Hershey's 51 years young just couldn't be compromised to fit the character of Rosie.

The sound track and music was absolutely beautiful and wonderfully relaxing.

I will give the movie a score of 7/10. A big 3 for having a go and really trying to show us, as an audience, the real Percy Grainger and his eccentricity, 2 for the cast and crew who did their best with what they had. And 2 for the South Australian Film Commission for supporting the people who made this film and continue to assist the Independent Film makers.

The movie will never knock "Shine" of its perch.

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