23 September 2012

Film: Warriors Of The Rainbow: Seediq Bale (Theatrical Cut) (2011)

Thoughts: It was easy for me to feel a lot of internal conflict during Warriors Of The Rainbow. It was equally as easy for me to be reminded during the film that humanity is often a hell of a lot crueller and brutal to itself than even this particular film could display. The film slips into melodrama more often than it should and sometimes even touches on an eye-rolling level of camp, detracting from an otherwise eye-opening and really quite exhausting 2 and a half hours of exaggerated history that not many Westerners would be aware of. Lots of fighting, a hell of a lot of decapitations, and and some rather maddening cultural differences lie within.

Warriors Of The Rainbow concerns a group of people, the Seediq, that live a relatively primitive existence in the Taiwanese mountains. There are about 10 different tribes that make up these people, and they live off the land and abide by their own rules and cultural norms- including people hunting and the act of removing their conquest's heads from their bodies to "appease their gods", or something. Anyway, early in the 1900s the Chinese and Japanese government shook hands on a deal that opened up Taiwan for Japanese expansion, including the particularly mineral-rich lands these people presided over. The Japanese move in, the people fight back. The Japanese eventually win, and about 20 years later (1930ish) the now-ruled aboriginal tribes are subjected to the usual shit that seems to befall conquered people in history, including the quashing of various important customs that are required for the Seediq to move forward in their lives as demanded by their beliefs. Eventually, a particular incident at a ritual wedding causes some bad stuff to happen, and eventually the Seediq rise up with violence in what was known as Wushe Incident. Basically, they kill an entire Japanese township. Regardless, this leads to all-out war between the two, and the whole thing goes pear shaped for both sides.

That seems like a lot for a synopsis- and it is. Hell, that doesn't even cover all the basics. So in that regard, it is hard to check over a film that I KNOW exists in a 2 part 4 and a half hour cut, and that is confirmed to expand on just about every aspect of the story. Either way, I've seen this cut, so this cut I'm going to cover.

There's a lot of action. A LOT of action. Seriously, I wasn't expecting this much action. You get these brutal sword encounters that fully convey just what guerrilla fighting and sword battles probably would have looked like during this time. You also get plenty of your standard war movie action towards the end. In fact, practically the last hour is all action. It is really quite something else, and it is all shot and handled quite well, thumbs up for the authenticity. Not many people are spared, believe me. Women and children are NOT covered in movie-magic damage protectors.

...which brings me to my next point- my conflict. Like I said at the start, I felt a lot of internal conflict during this film. I understand that different cultures have different norms and beliefs and so forth, but some that are upheld by these people are just plain... well, insane. Like for instance, it seems like if a member of a family dies, then all the other members of the family just go ahead and off themselves. Wife, brother, son, infant, it don't matter. Or, let's say in the case of our main progatonist (there are a few) Mona Rudao, at the end of the film, he heads off to kill his wife and kids, because they're losing. It's nuts. I thought these guys were fighting for freedom! I know, I know, I guess it's because living under slavery is not freedom, but I dunno. It's just a bit odd to me. Plus, there's a moment where a shit-ton of women and their kids commit suicide for the reason that "they'll take the food out of the men's mouths; there is not enough to go around". Again, logically I guess that's fairly sound, kinda, but again, fighting for freedom guys! What's the point if all your legacy is dead!

Now I know so far this all makes sense, a bit, in a kind of "they cannot take our freedom!" way, but here's the real rub- that's not why they're fighting. They don't kill out of necessity. You find out that the reason they kill is "a blood sacrifice to appease god". Basically, these dudes are doing it so they can spill blood. Seriously, part of their rite o passage to adulthood is killing stuff to earn stripes (literally- they mark their faces with tattoos to signify it). A dude even says after finding out his family committed suicide "I fight for blood, not revenge!". So yeah, a lot of conflict. There's a lot more stuff like this that clashes with my Western ideals.

But see, every time I got confused, or repulsed, or maddened, I quickly reminded myself that shit was probably even worse than this film is displaying. Hell, there are moments peppered throughout history- even right up to now, this very second!- where shit was probably a lot worse. So I was constantly checking myself over and over.

Regardless of all this, I still think that our main guy was, kind of an asshole. You see him as a youngster, and he's a belligerent, self-absorbed killer with no regard for safety. Apparently this makes for great leadership among the Seediq, because jump forward and he's leading the bunch. And still, kind of an asshole. He's still a belligerent ass with no regard for others, but instead of being a role-model, he's lost himself to drink. And when he rises up to fight the power, he doesn't really think it through. A fair few innocents die, and you can see the "uh oh." type expression on his face after his people massacre a town of innocents. But of couse, being an ass, that don't stop him, so off he goes. Yeah well, that's how it goes I guess.

And the camp bits I touched on. The title is Warriors Of The Rainbow, and yeah, there are a fair few digital rainbows stuck in the mix. Plus there's fan-favourite moments like "drop to knees, scream at heavens" and "spirit guide fades off into a waterfall", and a very "rousing" score. The Japanese are, for the most part, there to be shot or cackling maniacally (figuratively speaking- they're eeeeeeevil.), so you got that. And the film is violent. REALLY violent. This has to be cracking a record for onscreen decapitations or something. Blood is flying all over the shop.

Look, it sounds like I'm complaining. I'm not. It's a genuinely good flick. It's a bit odd, especially if you're not used to Asian cinema or different cultures, but if you can handle that and like historical actioners, give it a try. I'm certainly going to watch the extended cut, if I get around to it.


No comments:

Post a Comment