Thursday 11 November 2021

Book and Movie Review: Once Were Warriors by Alan Duff, Movie directed by Lee Tamahori

This book and the movie are a must read and must watch. 

But be prepared to be disturbed. The story is raw, violent, brutal, abusive. Set in society's underclass within the dysfunctional family of Jake and Beth Heke and their children, within the community of Maori people in New Zealand in the fictional town of Two Lakes, this novel won its writer Alan Duff PEN Best First Book, and movie Director Lee Tamhori numerous awards including both the Australian Film Institute and audience awards, the Montreal FIlm Festival Jury Prize, People's Choice Award and its lead actress Rena Owen Best Actress. It won the NZ Film and TV Award and was voted the best New Zealand movie of all time.

I first came across the movie years ago and recently rewatched it after we read the book as the last in our New Zealand Literature reads in my in person book group. There is a most obvious difference in the ending and  in the aggressor in one specific event.  I think it can be argued either way as to which is best. Either way the movie is a marvelous working of the book which of course has more detail and more nuance of the characters, But the performances in the movie are excellent and the reality of the cinematography is excellant, at some points close to the bone. .

You may not have heard of or read anything else by Alan Duff and you may not recognise any of the names for the movie but you will have watched other movies by the director (lee Tamahori - - Die Another Day, The Edge, Along Came a Spider, Mulholland Falls) and others which starred both the male lead (Temuera Morrison - - has recently played Bob Fett in the Star Wars franchised Book of Boba Fett and The Mandalorian) and female lead ( Rena Owen - in various TV series Vegas, Siren, The Gloaming). In my opinion Rena Owen's performance in this movie ranks up there with the best I've ever seen.

Neither is for the faint hearted but readers and viewers who do get all the way through will never forget either, and should try both.

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