Tenuously based on the legends of Easter Island, Chile, this story details a civil war between the two tribes on the island: the Long Ears and the Short Ears. A warrior from the ruling ...
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Tenuously based on the legends of Easter Island, Chile, this story details a civil war between the two tribes on the island: the Long Ears and the Short Ears. A warrior from the ruling class falls in love with a girl from the lower class, and must decide on his position in a time of great civil unrest. The ruling class are demanding larger and larger Moai (stone statues), a task which the lower class and the island ecology are more and more reluctant to provide. Written by
Murray Chapman <email@example.com>
To judge from the derision heaped on this film, one could be forgiven for thinking it must be totally unwatchable, however, that definitely is not the case. The film was shot on location and despite liberties taken with history, it is an absorbing look at a mysterious culture that has virtually disappeared.
1400 years ago, Polynesian seafarers settled on the most remote island on earth, Easter Island or Rapa Nui as they called it. Although most of what is known about their history is speculation based on archaeological evidence, it seems the island went through an intense period of statue (moai) building, followed by an equally intense period of tearing them down. In the course of which, Rapa Nui was denuded of trees and its society decimated by warfare and famine. To regulate their dwindling resources, the islanders conducted an annual ocean race with the winner's tribe ruling the island for a year under their leader, the Birdman.
Kevin Reynolds' movie is about these events. In fact, every event in the island's history is in the film. What took over 1000 years to unfold takes place in what seems like a single season. Time compression is one of the major criticisms of the film.
The writers constructed a Romeo and Juliet love story around the characters played by Jason Scott Lee, Sandrine Holt, and Esai Morales. This aspect of the story is quite effective due to their convincing performances. Less convincing are passages of silly dialogue between Eru Potaka-Dewes, and George Henare playing the reigning Birdman and the High Priest respectively. However, these are exceptions; the rest of the script effectively moves the story along and explains why things are happening to this doomed culture.
The making and moving of the moai are highlights of the film as is the birdman competition; an event so gruelling that by comparison, a modern triathlon seems about as difficult as an egg-and-spoon race. The film recreates the event at the actual location: the cliffs at Orongo. Today it is forbidden to scale these cliffs but it seems the film was shot before the restriction existed.
The score by Stewart Copeland, the former drummer of the band Police, features a blend of choral, orchestral and new age elements. A traditional score may have worked but this one is inspired, delivering a sense that time is running out for Rapa Nui.
Much bare skin is exposed in the movie and nearly all the women appear topless. Gratuitousness is another charge levelled at the film, however the alternative would have been Dorothy Lamour sarongs. Historical evidence suggests the costume designers got it right, which probably pleased the marketing people who no doubt had an eye on the box office.
Rapa Nui offers a very different cinema experience. It is not without the odd gaffe, but it is also totally unique and utterly compelling as well.
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