Radio On

Director: Christopher Petit
Screenwriters: Christopher Petit

Institute History

  • 1985 Sundance Film Festival


In a stream of cool high-tech images, synthesized rock music (“Kraftwerk,” in particular) and minimal plot, Radio On is a low-key tour de force where mystery dominates any sense of truth.

A man lies dead, for cause unknown, in a bathtub. His brother Robert, a London disc jockey, begins a search for the reasons why. In one way Radio On functions as a traditional mystery and film noir: a death, clues, and a search for the truth. But within this framework, the narrative operates on a very different level: as an anti-thriller with the quest for meaning becoming impossible in a desolate world. Petit’s first film, co-produced and strongly influenced by Wim Wenders, is a bleakly beautiful evocation of overwhelming alienation, hinging on a series of encounters without apparent meaning or climax. On his search to discover the reasons behind his brother’s death, Robert encounters a bitter Scottish youth, spewing out a monologue of violence and unrest, a garage mechanic/rock musician (played by Sting) and a German woman searching for her missing child. Had Radio On been a traditional film noir these characters would inevitably meet with tragic results. Here, they exist in a void where tragedy is impossible.

Screening Details

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