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Whale Rider Film Review
July 20, 2003

The other night the guest on Inside the Actors Studio was Robert De Niro.  One of the writers in the audience asked him what his advice would be for a writer.

De Niro answered to the effect, "Some writers are good at writing what they are told and others aren't.  Write from your heart, from within, no matter how crazy it may seem.  That's the only way you can distinguish yourself and make yourself unique and stand out.  At this point in the game, you have nothing to lose, so write from your heart."

The movie, Whale Rider, is exactly what De Niro was talking about.  This is a must see movie.  It stands out from the usual, summer fare.

This movie works on many levels.  First, there's the spiritual aspect of the movie.  Second, there's the ingrained mentality of a culture where boys are favored over girls.  Third, there is the historical part--of a culture slowly disappearing in the midst of modern times.  However, the movie ends with a positive view of this culture as shown by the whales' "spiritual" choice for the young girl.

There is the level of the "closed eyes" of the grandfather.  His eyes become opened--perfectly acted--as the grandfather stands at the beach when his wife brings him an item dear to him.

There's the first son versus second son syndrome, the humor of weight gain of the second son, the artistic talent of the first son, the native language and songs sang from the heart.  These are only naming a few.

Some great, artistic details worth noting include the following:

Dialogue:  "Who is to blame?"  The grandfather doesn't realize this is meant for him when he says this.  The irony works here.

The repetition of the young girl in the boat at significant parts of her life--but mostly her spiritual aspect.

The repetition of the young girl and her grandfather riding the bike.  These divide segments of the movie.

The opening of the movie begin and end with "water" and the young girl's narration.

The many scenes where the grandfather rejects his granddaughter--needed for the impact in the end.

The image of the whale tooth, the wooden carving of the whale rider, and the whales.

The two, hospital scenes at the beginning and end.  In the first, the grandfather rejects the granddaughter at birth.  In the second, the grandfather sees his faultiness and accepts his granddaughter.

Lastly, the production companies should receive credit for recognizing the strong adaptation writing and obvious directing talent of Niki Caro.

Movies like the Whale Rider must continue.  

Maybe Niki Caro heard Robert De Niro.  Or at least, great artists can communicate at this level without ever literally talking with each other.  This understanding between artists ultimately connects us all.

 

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