There’s a side of life in New Zealand I have caught glimpses of, as if through a peep-hole. Like one of those shoe box things we used to make as children. You put an image at one end, poke a hole in the other and see a kind of distant image. This man in the image, once a beautiful boy all smiles, flashing eyes and teeth, exemplifies that side. He is now in prison.
Movies show us that glimpse too. Like the stylish and stylised Once Were Warriors and the most recently seen but much less stylish or stylised, Dark Horse.
It is a stunning movie where the gangs are grunty, ugly and brutal. Where people live on the edge. There’s the couple trying to provide stability through the unlikely medium of chess for kids whose parents are ensconced in gangs and drugs. There’s the main character, a flawlessly brilliant Cliff Curtis, one of life’s discarded ones – bipolar- who is hauled away from a chess set to be put once more in hospital. There’s the brother, dying, we realise, who wants to provide a way for his son to be strong and be a man, and the son, caught between an uncle gentle and remembering of his brother’s care and a father made brutal by needing to find a way through a bitter life.
Interspersed are shots of the beautiful Gisborne and a stunning wharenui. (te Mana o Turanga?? ). Beauty and ugliness sharing space. Gentleness and brutality in the same house. Excitement and depression in the same brain. Strength and weakness in the same body. Order and chaos.
All the actors (mostly men) are perfect but the main trio of Curtis, Hapi and Rolleston are superb.
Definitely worth a look.