Back to tradition, back to your heart
I love this film, a simple film that can attract your attention all the way to the end. The breathtaking natural scenery of New Zealand, the magically blending colors of green and blue remind me of the gorgeous exterior settings where shoot the Lord Ring series. No wonder that in such a natural embraced place, eyes of these people are so clear and bright. Paikea, this little girl impressed me so much that I can still recall without difficulty of her eyes, deep within which vibrate flows of strong emotion and kind of strength, telling that being the leader of the clan is her destiny. Actually from the beginning we all could predict Pai would be the leader, but the development of the plot offers the audiences more than the simple answerer of the succession of the leader. At least I grasp several points from this film.
First, the different types of interpersonal relationships: mainly the grandpa Paka and Pai; grandpa and Pai’s father, father and Pai, grandma and Pai, grandma and grandpa, uncle and Pai, etc... I figured that several parts of the film are displayed in dialoguing form, showing the different relationship of these main characters. Paka and Pai’ relationship development is the main scenario. I really appreciated the excellent performance of these two characters. Paka loves his granddaughter so much even if she was not as he thought born to be the destined leader. When they played with a bike, when Pai overheard Paka’s words to father that she is useless to him; when Paka forbid Pai to take part in the training lesson as a leader candidate; when Pai gave speech on the stage with sobbing tone; and in the last part when Pai proved her leading power after whale-riding, when she disappeared from everyone’s eyesight, when she lied in comma in the hospital, I saw the emotion evolved between Paka and Pai with the unfolding process of plot. These moments are marked by their emotional tension and the final release. I can still feel quite excited when I write down such words about them. The outstanding performance of all these characters guarantees the success of this film, I think.
I might say I also saw a hint of feminism in this film for the story is mainly about the little girl and how she “unexpectedly” (to Paka) becomes the leader. Another reason may be more persuasive, that is, this film is a work of a female director. I have to say I sense the feministic elements in this film but I don’t think it is the theme of this film. In my eye, this film expresses Mori’s unique culture and the will of going back to tradition.
From this film I saw for the first time the Moris’ weird habit of greeting by nose-touching. Their concept of the relationship between human and sea set the founding of this film—the ancestors of them are whale-riders; in the modern days they should go back to find the lost spirit of their ancestors. So returning back to tradition, back to the original simple and local life seems to me the focus of this film. In the last part, all the people gathered on the shore, singing and dancing in Mori, performing traditional ceremony their ancestors might do. Among these people I saw Pai’s father who had tried to get away from Paka’s bond (though he displayed Mori items in Europe, Paka thought he was not lost in modern world especially when he knew he fell in love with an European girl) and his Germany wife. The appearance of Hemi’s father was really a surprise. That lost father was back to tradition as well; from Hemi’s joyous eyes I perceived an unprecedented unity of these people who might get lost in the modern world.