Friday, 11 July 2003

Whale rider

Listening to:

Dvořák, string quartet in E flat major, op. 51.

A recent movie

Whale rider. Affecting, manipulative, enjoyable. Lots of beautiful New Zealand countryside. Wonderfully appealing lead character.

I don’t think WR quite pulls off the ‘modern fairy-tale’ effect, but it tries hard and almost gets there. I think the difficulty stems from the attempt to be serious. (If you just want surreal whimsy, even very thought-provoking whimsy, try Being John Malkovich, but don’t expect BJM to produce much in the way of emotional response.)

WR’s great strength is in its depiction of the children; they behave in ways I can believe in and recognise, right up to the way the boys say stink. When I first heard this, it induced a little shock of memory: a flash of recognition that I indeed lived in a world where this was said and used. I don’t hear it around me now. Similarly, the way Paikea picks at her stick when being told off was a beautiful, genuine detail.

There’s a sensible message in the film, but its true power is in the sense of tearful happiness induced by seeing that it is possible for a child to have it ‘all come right in the end’.