This is the first of two essays that i wrote for my film studies class, while i attended the Film and Video Production course at SAIT. I do believe the paper was to answer what the central premise of a film was. It may have been limited to “The Whale Rider”, or it might have been our choice of the ones shown in the unit (i’m not sure anymore). It’s not so much a review, but a deconstruction of its themes. If you haven’t watched it i do give my whole hearted recommendation as it is a great film.
It’s kinda eye opening looking back at my 19 year old self, i remember relishing the writing assignments that were given out, as deconstructing a film to its bare bones premise or moral was and still is a deeply rewarding experience. I only wish i hadn’t been so self conscious and lazy and started blogging and writing reviews sooner.
It is more or less copied verbatim from my one existing copy that i printed out and handed in, i have changed some of the formatting and tidied up the diction in an attempt to make my ideas a bit more clear. But all in all, it is a very young me speaking.
I hope you enjoy reading!
“… Can Save Us”
Manuel Carrillos Avalos
A film’s premise is the reason it is made. The writer wants to communicate some idea, concept, or message. With the original Star Wars it was: “cowboys in space”, but the entire 6 movie set can be summed up with: “good will always win over evil”. Something a lot less epic in scope, but as big in premise is what The Whale Rider is trying to say.
To look at the surface of the film and not its depths would lead to a theme statement the likes of: “girl power”. As the young lady Pai overcomes the restrictions of a predominately male dominated society, and gaining the important position of chief in her tribe. That isn’t what the film is saying however, as there are many other major factors to consider and review, before allowing that statement to take thematic precedence over the entire film.
There is conflict between the old and the new, that can also be taken as its premise. The new embodied by Pai’s father rejecting the responsibilities of chiefdom, and expectations of this father in order to pursue his dreams in art. Also, Pai’s persistent attempts at learning the traditions that are taught to males of her tribe and not to her, is another example of how things are changing.
The old is embodied by Pai’s stubborn and desperate grandfather, who rejects the thought of anything that doesn’t conform to the “old ways”, and he becomes lost when those traditions are challenged and don’t hold up. If you were to judge the film with this in mind, you could perhaps state that the premise is something akin to: “the old should be replaced by the new”.
But i don’t believe that is what The Whale Rider says either. If it were Pai wouldn’t have inherited the position of chief, and her grandfather certainly wouldn’t be happy with the way things are at the end of the story. No, the film looks more at the relationships that exist between its characters; mostly the loving type.
The love between father and son is shown, and the love between grandparents and grandparents are the most prominent relationships in the film. If we investigate that further, we can look at what that love makes the characters do in the story. Particularly between Pai and her grandfather, as it is their relationship and conflict that is most prominent in The Whale Rider .
The grandfather loves his son and his heritage and traditions, thus he is hard with them both. Pai loves her grandfather and wants him to accept her for who she is. It’s this need to be accepted that drives Pai to call the ancients, and ride the whale out to sea. It is this love that makes him upon her return accept her.
With this act Pai gains acceptance from her grandfather, and most importantly her grandfather finally let’s go of his debilitating expectations of himself and others, and is finally happy in his life. This completes the central story arcs of the two main characters, and resolves the main conflict in the story. Therefore i must conclude that love is what the film is pointing to, and The Whale Rider’s ultimate premise can therefore only be:
Love can save us.
November 7th, 2006