Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 15, No. 13. July 17, 1952
Film Review ... — "Broken Barrier" Succeeds In Being Tiresome
Film Review ...
"Broken Barrier" Succeeds In Being Tiresome
New zealand film-making, within its own limits, has had a successful career. The National Film Unit, an excellent training ground for any young aspiring film technician, has until recently confined itself to documentaries. The Weekly Reviews, after a very slow start, gradually achieved technical polish and were not always content to fill up celluloid feet with parades of mannequins or comic divers. Then the Units Michael Forlong graduated to a featurette,"Journey for Three." Now Pacific Films give us "Broken Barrier."
This film reminds us of a familiar fact: most modern films never have anything to say. True, there is often technical mystery; but beyond these polished surfaces, is there ever an ideal that is, in actuality, less bright but, at the same time, vital and significant in our life? Of recent films, "A Streetcar Named Desire" may have given us something to think about but with most films we may be amazed but never disturbed. Film-makers are frightened to treat us as adults.
So are the makers of "Broken Barries." It is true that the producers have not given their audience a dream-world, but the world, the New Zealand world, as it really is They have ignored the popular fallacy that there is no colour bar in this Country; they realise there is and have had the guts to protest. But "methinks they protest too much": there is too much Shavian overemphasis. The dialogue la heavy with didactic remarks. The producers have been too keen to break the barrier of prejudice between the Maori and pakeha and they have, as entertainers, succeeded in merely being tiresome.
Nor can I way there has been success in other departments. The film's technique of using the sound track for soliliques instead of dialogue would have been acceptable if it hadn't been abused. This method is so unconventional that only the really significant inner observations of a character must be recorded. There is no room for comments on the weather or the East Coast country-side. Too often thoughts too shallow for words are explained. The story would have survived even without the help of the sound track.
But what of the story? It is simplified and that's all it needs to be Mowever, it is full of excuses for seccnic sight-seeing; every time the journalist hero has an emotional twinge ho picks up his park and hikes off to Ruapehu or to the Lakes or Rotorua. Interesting shots for overseas audiences perhaps, but I'm sure they are as sick of seeing Rotorua's bubbling mud as I am.
Nevertheless, in spite of these digressions, the producers gave us sympathetic glimpses of the New Zealand people, especially the Maoris. We arc present at (not merely observing) a Maori Tribal gathering, a typical country hall dance (with the beer outside in the truck) and a pakeha family dinner. We nee all the familiar types—the inquisitive New Zealand landlady, the New Zealand housewife collecting the milk from the store in her dressing gown.
Yes, the producers have successfully exploited the use of local colour. But alas I must hark back to technical imperfections and unevenness in direction. One glaring example: there is a singular lack of excitement in the scenes of the forest-fire rescue. The main reason for this is, I think, poor editing and unawareness of the effectiveness of local sounds on the sound track.
As through the whole flim, there is altogether too much music; a typical complaint, I know, but I shall continue complaining until directors realise that silence and local sounds are often Instruments of great excitement on the screen.
Other technical faults: Unevenness of photographic exposure and untidy cutting.
Of the acting I shall say little because "Broken Barrier" is not a film offering acting scope. All of it has an amateur tone. Terence Bayler, as the young journalist, gives performance that only emphasised the uselessness of most of his dialogue. The words only underline what he admirably conveys by expression. There is, however, a slight self-consciousness in his playing which is completely absent from Kay Ngarimu's performance as the young Maori nurse, in love with both her race and a member of the other across the barrier.
"Broken Barrier's" first taste of it's commercial career was the Grand Gala Premiere held last week. Whether it will receive the sumo attention overseas is doubtful, but we can at least say that it will be coldly reviewed on Its own merits. But for us it is our first feature film and we hope the forerunner of others. However, if others arc to come our film makers must break down the barrier of indifference to the perfection of technique. They cannot compete with the world unless they do. More and more people are coming to realise that the film is an art and the cultural conscience of the New Zealand people is telling them that this art should be treated on a more ambitious scale. There are two crying cultural needs in this country today: a National Theatre and an enlarged film industry.