(aka Passion: The Story of Percy Grainger)
MED231 Australian Cinema: Critical Review
by Cheah Tian Huey, Olivia

Director:                                          Peter Duncan
Producer:                                        Matt Carroll
Executive Producers:            
Nym Kim
                                                            Gary Hamilton
                                                            Sandra Schulberg
                                                            Rudolph Wiesmeier
                                                            Hans Huttmann
Co-Producer:                                Zanna Northam
Line Producer:                             Adrienne Read
Writer:                                             Don Watson (Research based on John Bird’s biography “Percy Grainger”)
Original Screenplay by:        
Rob George
                                                            Peter Goldsworthy
                                                            (Based on the play “Percy & Rose”)

Director of Photography:                     Martin McGrath A.C.S.
Editor:                                             Simon Martin
Costume Designer:                                  Terry Ryan
Production Designer:                 Murray Picknett
Music Supervisor:                                 Christine Woodruff
Australia – Liz Mulliner
Consultants – Anousha Zarkesh
United Kingdom – Nina Gold
Assistant Directors:               
First – Mark Egerton & Emma Schofield
                                                            Second – Jennifer Leacey
                                                            Third – Debbie Antoniou


Production Companies:
                                                            Australian Film Finance Corporation
                                                            Hollywood Partners Munich
                                                            The Movie Network
                                                            Beyond Films (International Distribution)
Motion International
                                                            Nighthawks Pictures GmbH & Co.KG
                                                            REP Distribution
Arrangements and orchestrations,
piano teacher, music advisor:        Alan John

Additional piano arrangements,
piano hand double, orchestra
conductor, piano performed by:    David Stanhope

Piano teacher / Advisor:                 Nym Kim
Cello teacher:                                                Tim Slade
Violin teacher:                                   Jacob Plooij
Piano rolls supplied by:                  Dennis Condon
Guitar, ukulele consultant:              Llew Kick
Orchestra contractor:                      Coralle Hartl
Orchestra leader:                              Phillip Hartl
Recording engineer / music editor: Simon Leadley
Assistant engineer:                          Kirke Godfrey
Recording engineers:                      Christo Curtis, Tim Ryan

Format:                                           35mm
Country of Production:                        Australia
Running Time:                             102 minutes
Sound:                                             Dolby Digital
Rating:                                             R (18+ Restricted to adults 18 years and over, Adult Themes)
Release Date:                                 1 July 1999
International Release Dates:
27 February 2000        Portugal
24 August 2000          Germany (Passion: Extreme Leidenschaft)
                                                            28 September 2000     Malaysia
                                                            2 December 2000        Taiwan
                                                            28 July 2006               Hungary
Box Office Figures:               
1 – 4 July, 1999 [No. 12: $72, 414]
                                                            8 – 11 July, 1999 [No. 18: $60, 011]
                                                            Total Gross: $ 166, 132
[Box Office (1999). Retrieved April 25, 2007, from Urban Cinefile: ]

                                                Richard Roxburgh       as         Percy Grainger
                                                Barbara Hershey         as         Rose Grainger
                                                Emily Woof                 as         Karen Holten
                                                Claudia Karvan           as         Alfhild de Luce
                                                Simon Burke               as         Herman Sandby
                                    Australian Cinematographers Society (1999)
~ Feature Productions Cinema - Martin McGrath
Australian Film Institute (1999)
~ Best Achievement in Cinematography – Martin McGrath
~ Best Achievement in Costume Design – Terry Ryan
~ Best Achievement in Production Design – Murray Picknett
                                    Australian Film Institute (1999)
                                                ~ Best Achievement in Sound   - Andrew Plain
- Phil Judd
                                                                                                - Guntis Sics
                                                                                                - Anne Breslin
                                                                                                - Jane Paterson
~ Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role – Richard Roxburgh
~ Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – Claudia Karvan
~ Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – Emily Woof
Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards (2000)
                                                ~ Best Supporting Actor (Female) - Claudia Karvan

Moscow International Film Festival (1999)
                                                ~ Golden St. George – Peter Duncan

Bibliographical Reviews:
Braun, L. (n.d.). Passion Goes Unfulfilled. Retrieved April 27, 2007, from Canoe, Jam Movies:

Elley, D. (1999). Passion: Period Drama – Australian – U.S.). Reed Business Information. Retrieved April 27, 2007, from Variety:

Feature Article: Passion (n.d.). Retrieved April 26, 2007, from Preview Online:,,,

King, G (n.d.). Passion (1999). Retrieved April 25, 2007, from IMDB:

Passion (1999). Retrieved April 27, 2007, from Filmink Magazine:

Passion: Passion Review (n.d.). Retrieved April 26, 2007, from Channel 4 Film:

Passion: Synopsis (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2007, from Urban Cinefile:
Steve Baker’s Film Reviews: Passion (n.d.). Retrieved April 26, 2007, from

Tuna (n.d.). Passion (1999) from Tuna. Retrieved April 26, 2007, from

Tunnacliffe, C. (2001). On Screen: Passion. Toronto Star Newspaper Limited. Retrieved April 25, 2007, from Eye Weekly:

Interview with Filmmaker:

“It’s hard to summarise him, a contradictory and complex individual. In the tussle between the love for his mother versus love for other people and things, he was always going to choose his mother”, says Peter Duncan.
[Duncan Peter: Passion, Peter Does Percy (n.d.). Retrieved April 25, 2007, from Urban Cinefile: ]

Online Presence:
            I did encounter problems when searching for interviews with filmmakers. I think this is because this film is not internationally known and it is not shown in many countries. I found difficulties when searching for this film’s information. Many websites which are famous for film reviews have no information of Passion: the Story of Percy Grainger. The results are mostly shown ‘Your Search for Passion: the Story of Percy Grainger Did Not Match Any Documents’ or the history of Percy Grainger.

Genre:                                              Biopic 




Critical Review of Passion

Passion, also known as Passion: the story of Percy Grainger is a biopic of an Australia born pianist and composer. This film is based on real life of Percy Grainger which research is based on John Bird’s biography of Percy Grainger. This is an extraordinary film about extraordinary life of Percy Grainger. He is eccentric and sado-masochistic. His life is always full of music, love and sex, none of these can be missed when telling his story. He loves the women in his life: his best friend’s fiancée, his lover, Karen and his mother, Rose. But he always chooses to love his mother. He treats the relationship between him and Rose as his highest performance that he gives all his loves to Rose. His passion on music allows him to express himself and his loves. Music has become his way of expressing. Sex as well as sado-masochism has become motivation for him to compose songs. He plays based on his mood and inspiration.

The story is about the one year life of Australian pianist and composer, Percy Grainger in 1914 who was living in London. He moved to London to expand his career and to introduce his compositions to the royal in London. Percy possessed a wonderful career with Rose’s faithful care and devoted teaching.

Firstly, Percy fell in love with his best friend’s fiancée, Alfhild de Luce after Luce comforted him when he was having stage phobia. He even proposed marriage to Luce. He then fell in love with a pianist, Karen who he first met in his concert and later became his student and lover. Karen then started to learn sado-masochism and practised with Percy.

Rose felt being betrayed by Percy when Percy started to have love relationship with Karen. Rose could not lose him not only because he is her son, but also because she put so much effort on him and gave him genius gene. Therefore, she requested Karen to leave Percy. The relationship between Percy and Karen had driven Rose ill. Percy then felt guilty and practised sado-masochism again. He did not only practise sado-masochism to his sex partner, but also to himself that he used his nipples for sewing practice.

He conveyed his feelings through the notes on piano. In the last concert of his journey in London, although it was a joint performance with orchestra group, he played a song and he was able to convey his thought to Karen that he chose Rose. He chose Rose as he felt he is half as a pianist and composer and half as a son, but not a lover.

Rose committed suicide in New York in 1922; this was most probably due to false rumours of incest with Percy. Percy then married and settled in the United States. He went around the world to perform as a pianist and composer. Few years before he died, he did experiments in “free music” which created on machines that did not require performer. He died in White Plains, New York in 1961.

The relationship between Percy Grainger and his mother is amazing. I never thought that mother and son’s relationship can be more than mother and son, and even more than lovers, but it is also not love relationship like couple. I believe that Karen is the only one who Percy had a serious relationship with, but except for the relationship of mother and son.

I think that Richard Roxburgh is a bit old for this character. There is no doubt that Richard Roxburgh and Barbara Hershey can be characters of a couple. But his acting convinced me that he is the best to act Percy Grainger.

The cinematography, particularly editing and camera angle are perfect that we cannot find any mistakes when Roxburgh is playing the piano. In fact, Roxburgh does not know how to play piano and the piano is played by David Stanhope who did additional piano arrangements, piano hand double, orchestra conductor, and piano performance. The perfect cinematograph can be found in one of the piano scenes which Percy and Karen play the piano together in a party. But it is slightly cliché for biopic that there are always descriptions in opening and closing scenes.

Percy Grainger is not known to many people including Australians. It only gives an urge of watching to people who like music, specifically piano and also people who know Percy Grainger.

This movie once again tells the audiences that artists always have odd habits. Although this film is based on true story, it seems giving an impression to the audiences that artists are eccentric and they like to do things in their own way. This kind of idea can always be found in art films like music and painting.

The Box Office figures show that this film is not known to many. Although it went up to top twenty in the first week, it dropped out of the list after eleven days.

Before I watched this film, I expected that its flow will be slow and prepared to be bored, as it is under the category of art biopic. But I also expected to watch some great and wonderful scenes of piano performance. Surprisingly, it was not boring and the flow was not slow for me, but the piano scenes were lesser than I thought. It is nice to watch and easy to understand, although with extraordinary lifestyle of Percy Grainger. It is not a complicated film. Therefore, it is nice to watch when you want to get out of those complicated or loud films. This film is considered as biopic but not musical, due to the story of this film is about the passion and the lifestyle of Percy Grainger. It is not much about music and performances.

Passion is not a large budgeted film, but it is a unique and extraordinary film because of Percy Grainger’s extraordinary life. For me, Peter Duncan has successfully avoided the normal perception of cliché and queer scenes in Australian films. Percy was eccentric and sado-masochistic, but whipping scenes did not make the film becoming a queer film. His odd habit did not kill the film; it enables the audiences to understand Percy’s unique characteristic and his passion as well as his loves to Rose instead.