Monday, September 05, 2011

Rage: A review

I was not in New Zealand in 1981, although it may have played a role in my parents deciding to move here; the protests against the tour were a large part of what they knew about NZ before coming. I remember going on the protests later in the 1980s (we got to go to McDonalds after one). Apartheid was the second political issue I understood when I was a girl (the first was anti-nuclear).

I was certainly chanting a long while watching Rage.

In many ways it was a very good movie. I was particularly impressed with the way archival footage of the key moments was edited with fictional material. The acting was strong. And even though I spent most of the first twenty minutes asking: "Where is that? It is not Victoria University" there were some nice period moments.

The politics of the movie were reasonably clear. Although I could have done without a wise old African man telling a young Maori women how awesome New Zealand white people are.

The other political message was about the police - and the movie quite deliberately presented the police as stuck in the middle. We saw the police through the eyes of a young Maori female recruit who faced no racism or sexism from her co-workers. We didn't see the red squad. The police came and protected a house full of protesters in Hamilton. That is not a complete picture of the role of the police in '81 - it's a misleadingly limited one.

Leaving aside that political difference - my main objection was the sheer inanity of the 'plot'. Pro-tip if you're writing "falling in love wasn't part of the plan." then you may not be conceiving your characters as individuals with interesting and complex inner lives and well developed relationships.

It was neither the love story or the dead mother that bothered me per se; it was the way those two stories played out in the most predictable, unoriginal, ridiculously timed kind of a way. There was nothing specific or real about those stories that couldn't have come from "So I see you're writing a star-crossed lovers" cheat-sheet.

On top of that it meant we saw the anti-tour protests through a pakeha perspective.* You could tell an interesting story of a young Maori woman working as an undercover police officer, and the way she navigated that life. But instead of it being about her life and her world and what she saw - her story revolved around who she was sleeping with.

I think what bothered me most about the film was the idea that the events of 1981 and the many different realities those involved in them weren't interesting or dramatic enough in themselves to make a tele-movie. There are so many vivid interesting real stories that could be told about an incredible, stressful, intense time. Those stories could also have involved sex, and death and love and joy. Why rehash inanities rather than find something interesting and specific?

* And don't think I didn't notice that the only moment that it passed the Bechdel test was when the Donna Awatere character criticises the under-cover police officer. To have a pakeha man (who is supposedly deeply involved with the tour and reasonably politically aware) come in and rescue her was pretty telling about where the film-makers stood.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:46 am

    I agree, the plot was pretty bad. it certainly showed that one of the co writers was a high ranking police officer and the other was Tom Scott (who seems to be one of those "I was a protester when I was young but I didn't really follow the details of what was going on in the movement apart from remembering a few activist stereotypes which I can use in a film 30yrs later"