utu film review by raymond crichton n.
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utu plot summary

The film is about revenge/retribution ‘utu,’howthe cycle starts, how it changes, and the price to be paid to end it.It's set in the 1870s, and the charismatic/rangatiratanga driven Maori leader ‘TeWheke’ is fed up by brutal land grabs and the death of his family.Hetakes up arms and leads a bloody rebellion against the colonial NZ Government. In the process he provokes everyone affected by his actions — threatened frontiersmen, disgruntled natives, lusty wahine, bible-bashing priests, and kupapa(Maori descendant that is allied with white men.) amongst them — to consider the nature and meaning of ‘utu’ (retribution or revenge.or the actual term, ‘reciprocity’’). though it is compelling, and riveting. The subject matter is profoundly serious, though there are elements of comedy even during the most serious scenes. Geoff Murphy’s ambitious, energetic film takes the shotgun approach in its attempt to be the great New Zealand (colonial) epic.

Utu (Plot Summary)”
character background

TeWheke; TeWheke led a rebellion against the British Colonial in the ‘era’ of the 1870’s. He had this preconceived idea, that the Pakeha ( Europeans) , were basically taking more than they agreed.He was a charismatic well rounded character in the film. He developed in the story, with many motives as to why he would rebel. He felt injustice was being served, between him and his people, when it came to land, and what the pakeha upheld/had.

Mr Williamson; He was the owner of a plot of land, along with his wife. He first comes into the scene, when “ TeWheke” decides to ‘raid,’ him and his wife’s land. Mr Williamson and Mrs, didn’t take to nicely to this, and therefore rebelled against the rebelling. The partys leader TeWheke, kills his wife Mrs Williamson, destroys his house, and nearly kills Mr Williamson in the process. This starts this sub-plot mission to kill TeWheke, it helps portray the main plot, being revenge/utu.

Wiremu:Wiremu, is TeWheke’s brother. He executed, TeWheke when he was caught, because ‘apparently,’ he had no motive, to kill him, he had no reason to personally and he was free of “reason.” He followed and helped the Pakeha, against TeWheke throughout the movie.

Lt Scott; Lt Scott was ‘Hanade’s’ friend, he was first put in charge to “strategically’ put TeWheke down, or get caught, During the process of being with Hanade, he mets a woman that stole his musket, Hanade chases this woman, and begins to love her. Hanade was killed. Lt Scott, then ends up falling in love, with the lusty wahine, ‘Kuira’

Kuira;Kuira was a wahine, that first came into the flim, when she stole Lt Scott’s musket/gun. Hanade, later dies, Kuira, is wanted for crimes, and she is later caught. Lt Scott, knowing her all to well, falls for her ‘artifice,’ and she slips out. She joins with TeWheke, to help get revenge for Hanade’s death (I think), She then helps Lt Scott; in getting into position (without his acknowledgement) when TeWheke, was planning a assault against Col Elliot and his troops. She is then killed by TeWheke. Which starts her family relative off, on trying to get ‘utu’ on TeWheke, during the ‘bush court hearing.’

Character Background


Geoff Murphy


Keith Aberdein, Geoff Murphy


Anzac Wallace, Bruno Lawrence, Tim Elliott|


In conclusion My score for Utu is really a "high 7". I wish I could have given the film an even higher score, and I can envision myself appreciating it more on subsequent viewings (provided I don't completely forget about all of the factual background material I've looked up since watching it and doing this project), but my confusion with the plot and characters at times just wouldn't allow that, no matter how much I enjoyed the film otherwise. I know that some of the problems I had were with dialogue and following the characters names, they were hard to hear and even by Maori sounded like a different pronunciation --this is definitely a film that could have benefited from subtitles. Especially with some Pakeha viewers.But over-all,Utuhas some great scenes, some excellent extended sequences (including the homesteader(Mr Williamson’s) sequence and the climax--both were incredibly suspenseful), some memorable characters, and a wicked sense of humour--there were a couple times I almost felt as if the film were turning into a "black comedy". It's worth checking out if you're into world cinema or any of the film's genres, and probably even more imperative to watch if you have an interest in New Zealand history.