||[Jul. 14th, 2003|09:58 pm]
The first time I saw the preview for this movie, our friend Eric and I were waiting for Kat and Ferrett to get through the snackbar line. I watched the trailer and turned to Eric and said, "That's either going to be wonderful or dreadful." The trailer was bad, but the concept seemed interesting, and the photography beautiful.
The verdict is in. Wonderful.
This movie is terrific on so many levels. I actually came out of it feeling refreshed and uplifted. The story is simple, so the characters have a chance to unfold. The director actually trusts the audience; there are subplots left in the background that add to the richness of the tale, entire life stories that no one exposes to the glare of a spotlight just to make certain the audience "gets it."
It is the tale of a Maori tribe who will lose its leadership because the hereditary chief's son has no son, only a daughter. Her grandfather, determined not to lose the old ways, starts teaching them to the village boys, but not to her because in his mind girls can't be chiefs. She enlists the help of her uncle, the second son, in learning the ways that are kept from her (the uncle is one of the most interesting characters - completely dissipate and yet living and helpful).
No one in the story is demonized. The grandfather is set up as a villain in the first 10 minutes - and then that image is turned completely on its ear. There isn't a single character with whom you don't sympathize, because each one of them is a real person, and real people are not all black or all white.
The mysticism in the story is handled in the casual, low-key manner in which other cultures that are still close to the earth handle it - the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Laura Esquivel, or African literature. It is central to the plot, but neither overwhelms or trivializes the interpersonal play between the characters. If this movie is playing anywhere near you, see it.