Film: ‘The Whale Rider’ directed by Niki Caro
The plot is the story line of the film. Plots are broken down into sense and sequences. The opening sequence as the most important as it sets the tone and mood of what is to follow. In ‘The Whale Rider’, we are introduced to the theme of identity and the expectations that are placed on individuals based on their gender. Koro is annoyed at his son Porourgangi for not following his example: ‘I know who you were meant to be, who you were born to be’. Porourgangi explains his daughter Paikea that Koro is looking for a ‘prophet’ that will lead this Maori tribe ‘out of the darkness’.
The essential element in any genre of narrative and especially in a drama, is a complication. In general, terms this is a form of conflict. Writers use conflict to engage the audience and keep them reading.
Themes are the messages imparted in the film. Our theme is identity and role expectations.
Motif are any recurring element in a story that has symbolic significance.
- Rope: symbolises the strength in the community/family. Koro leaves Paikea out of the community and the rope breaks.Fishing boat: symbolise they get food and survive together as a community.
- Rei puta: emblematic of power and authority. Koro tells the ‘would be chiefs’ that ‘If you have the tooth of a whale, then you must have the jaw of a whale to wield it’.
Shots and angles
Directors tell the story by breaking the plot up into angles. Nicki Caro makes use of a variety of camera shots and angles.
Extreme long shot
This shot type provides a far distant view of a scene, focusing on landscape. Often used at the start of a film. Nicki Caro uses this when Paikea is leaving home to go to Germany and it highlights/underscores her sadness and her reluctance to leave her beloved village. It is also used when the whales are stranded on the beach and Koro rejects Paikea: ‘Leave it, you’ve done enough’.
This shot also includes some landscape but the characters are clearly recognisable and body language is evident. Used when the whales are stranded to highlight the Maori community’s despair and desperation.
Medium shot or mid shot
A medium shot frames more of your subject while still revealing some of the background. If your subject is a person, a medium shot would show them from the waist up.These are used when understanding dialogue is important and body language and hints at facial expression aid understanding. Medium shot/Mid-shot is used when Paikea delivers her speech dedicated to her grandfather at the school concert. This camera underscores Paikea’s disappointment.
Close ups shows the subject in more detail often showing little or no background. It is used to emphasise emotions and reactions to circumstances and conflict. An example of a close-up is used when Paikea is responding to Koro’s rejection of her: ‘Take her with you, she’s no use to me’. We clearly see her tears indicative of her upset and despair.
High angle shot
This camera directly looks down. The angle is often used to make the object or character below appear vulnerable or powerless; victim. This is used when the whales are stranded on the beach and are dying. It highlights Paikea’s concern; it also shows how she must fight against society’s prejudice against girls; and their view of authority and leadership.
Eye level shot
This is the most normal angle where the camera is on the same eye line as the person or object being shot. It is meant to give a feeling of inclusion, encouraging the view to feel that they are involved in the scene.
Low angle shot
In a low angle shot the camera is positioned so that it is looking up towards the action. This shot is used to make the subject appear more important, dominant or powerful.
Two angle shot
Two shots are good for establishing a relationship between subjects. A two shot could also involve movement or action. It is a good way to follow the interaction between two people without getting distracted by their surroundings. An effective two shot angle is employed to convey the close relationship between Nanny Flowers and Paikea after the implacable Koro has banished Paikea from the house.