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Adaptation: The Most Important Differences Essay

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The novel “The Whale Rider” by Witi Ihimaera was translated into the film directed by Niki Caro. Significant changes were made from the text to the film by the director. Changes on the characters, the theme, and especially the change of the narrator.

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Those changes are important changes for the film to work and for the audience to a have a Hollywood experience even If they have or have not read the novel. One of the changes that I believe that is important was the change of the narrator. In the novel, the narrator is a character called Rawiri, he is the Uncle of Kahu which is the main character in the novel and the movie. Niki Caro the director of the film decided to change the narrator from Rawiri to Kahu which I believe changes the whole perspective of the story. In the movie, changing the narrator from Rawiri to Paikea which is Kahu I think is better for the movie so that the story could focus on Paikea and tell the story in Paikea’s point of view. The story in the movie gives the audience what Paikea is experiencing and she is feeling. I think changing the narrator to Paikea gives the audience a more in-depth, more personal, and a very good view of how Paikea is feeling towards her community especially to her grandfather.

In the book, the story was told by Rawiri and because the narrator is the Uncle, the story was driven away or did not really follow Kahu’s story very closely which was the main character. Personally, While I was reading the book, I felt like Kahu was just another character who played a big role but not the main role because simply of the narration. There were some chapters 9, 10, and 11 that I felt like very needless like when Rawiri traveled to Sydney, Australia to find himself and to explore the outside world of his Maori community. Although those chapters were not related directly to Kahu or of what was happening in Whangara, it shows how other Maori people who left their community changed their ways of living and very disconnected from their roots. These chapters built Rawiri’s character which in my opinion took away a lot of time to get to know Kahu and how she keeps her will to be the next leader or the first chieftain of their tribe.

The second change the movie made was Paikea being born with a twin brother who later died with their mother. In the book, there is no twin brother or brother. I think adding the twin brother in the movie was a smart change. The reason is that at the beginning of the movie, the audience already saw Koro’s disappointment when he found out the Paikea survived and not the twin brother. It adds a more Hollywood story towards the story instead of in the book Koro’s being displeased of just having a granddaughter. I think it also gives the audience of the movie who have not read the novel what is coming towards the relationship between Paikea and her Paka.

In addition, adding the twin brother who died gives Paikea’s character more power in the sense of power to prove to her Paka and to the tribe that change is coming whether the chief approves or not. Although, in the movie, her Paka was showy of his love for her granddaughter unlike in the book that Paka was very cold towards her. In the movie, there are a lot of scenes that show Paka and Paikea riding a bike laughing and enjoying each others company. But in the book, all of Paikea’s encounter with her Paka is cold and full of anger towards her. The third change between the movie and the book that I think is important is the theme. The theme in the movie against the theme in the novel. In the movie, the tribe falling apart, community very detached to their ancestors and the old ways. Young Maori showing lack of interest to learn their language and how to live like a native Maori. The movie also shows family relationship not only in Koro’s family but also one of Koro’s student Hemi. Hemi’s father portrays a very modernized young father who has no interest in learning about his ancestors. They portray Hemi’s father as an outlaw.

The movie really showed how their culture crumbling down but Paikea\’s will to follow her destiny to become the chieftain gives her community an inspiration to work together to build the Maori spirit alive. It shows in the movie and the book how the community came together by going down the beach to help the whales. In the novel, I think the theme was weak mainly because it focuses on the big picture which is finding the next leader. I think that the book was very refined in a way of not emphasizing how important to learn their own language and the way their ancestors live. Although, there was part of the book when Rawiri and his friends went to the beach to help the community to save the whales.

In conclusion, the changes made in the movie made sense to me because the story felt easier to follow because simply the narrator of choice is the main character, so the flow of the story stayed with the main character. You feel Paikea’s pressure to be accepted by her Paka and the whole community as a family and a leader. The story was broader in the movie. Compared to the novel which for me spent too much time building Rawiri’s character that changes most of the story content.

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