The Director's Cut

 (Geoff Murphy, New Zealand, 1983/85) 105 minutes


Director: Geoff Murphy
Producers: Don Blakeney, Kerry Robins
Screenplay: Geoff Murphy, Keith Aberdein
Production Designer: Ron Highfield
Photography: Graeme Cowley
Editor: Mike Horton
Music: John Charles
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra
Anzac Wallace (Te Wheke)
Bruno Lawrence (Williamson)
Kelly Johnson (Lieutenant Scott)
Wi Kuki Kaa (Wiremu)
Tim Elliot (Colonel Elliot)
Tania Bristowe (Kura)
Ilona Rodgers (Emily Williamson)
Martyn Sanderson (the vicar)
Merata Mita (Matu)

Reviews and notes

Set during the Maori land wars when the Europeans decimated the native population of New Zealand, UTU (the title is the Maori word for tribal revenge) is about a bloody and violent Maori uprising in the nineteenth century. Through the actions of its hero/villain Te Wheke, UTU explores the issues raised by colonization and the roots and rationale of Maori war patterns. Opening with a massacre and following through Te Wheke's acts of vengeance, the film ends as a philosophical discussion (at Te Wheke's court martial) about the seat of blame for this violence.

First seen at Cannes two years ago, UTU has benefited greatly from re-cutting and re-structuring in a way that allows the arguements to surface more sharply. The role of young Lieutenant Scott, born in New Zealand and respectful of Maori rights and traditions, has been strengthened making the comment more accessible and preventing the film from revelling in gory detail. But the film remains weak, lapsing into wordy discussion which undermines the impact of the action making the finished product too cold and lifeless to thrust home its points more forcibly.
-Sally Hibbin, Films & Filming. January 1985.

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