Looking back on Rapa Nui, Kevin Reynold's ambitious 1994 picture set on Easter Island, it remains fascinating for its many narrative convictions as well as the reception it received. Jason Scott Lee appears fine in a role which seems simultaneously wide-eyed, genuine, love struck and inexperienced. These qualities play to the character, transcending the nature of flaws to become even more immediate.
Although it stammers and stutters in the early going, there are important hatchlings. Besides the upcoming Birdman race which will determine the island's ruling tribe for the coming year, there are matters of deforestation and traditions being uprooted.
During the race, each tribal member must descend a cliff barefoot, swim across shark infested waters and reach the nesting grounds for the egg. The egg must be lifted and carried unbroken back to the main island. I liked this concept. A broken egg or the possibility of one has rarely felt so riveting. Truly to be a winner you must have a steady hand or head in this case.
In conjunction, composer Stewart Copeland dashes from one end of the island to another, his music evoking the windswept ambiences and deeply spiritual flux governing the tribes.
I thought Rapa Nui was an excellent film. Therefore, it pains me to report that the picture only recouped $300,000 on a $20 million budget. Perhaps the pacing had something to do with it, although character and style more than make up for the sum of our burdens.
The film also takes risks as a love poem. There's a triangle, yet it's an organic branch on the tree of the story. No sap here, only the purest desires felt by human beings.