Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Once Were Warriors...............

............ and now, they are lost.



The movie, Once Were Warriors, was based on Book 1 of a trilogy by Alan Duff; Once Were Warriors, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted, and Jake's Long Shadow.

The books (and the 2 movies that were made), follow the Heke family, their all too rare ups, and frequent, often violent, downs.

The Heke's are a family of proud Maori descent, living in cheap Government housing, in a rough part of town. The man of the house, Jake, aka Jake the Muss, struggles to find work, and spends considerable time and money, drinking.  His wife is the usual target of his violent rages, which see her unable to leave the house, their kids cowering in corners, and friends turning a blind eye.

There are some pretty horrific scenes in this movie, it's not something I would recommend for sensitive souls.  I read the book before I saw the movie, knew what to expect, and I was still utterly devastated.

I think part of that goes back to when I was growing up.  The drinking, poverty and violence the Heke family lived with were all too familiar.  The town I grew up in was small and poor, drinking was a fact of life, and the violence that often ensued as a result, accepted as the way things went.

To be fair, violence was not something that happened or was accepted in my parent's home.  Drinking was.  Poverty was our bedfellow.  We had close family who endured beatings and worse at the hands of loved ones.  And no-one did anything.  Because that was the way things were, how they had been for years, and how they would (and do) remain.

Much of this occurred on Dad's side; he had many brothers, and only 3 sisters.  He was the youngest, and the older boys were not above reminding him of that, should he 'step out of line' as it were.  Mum had only 2 brothers.  One of those had an - interesting - marriage, it wasn't uncommon for their children to turn up on our doorstep, or Nan's in the middle of the night.

What does this have to do with the Heke's? Not a lot.  I will say though, I saw many, many Jakes as I was growing up.  Men who had lost their sense of selfworth, and their identity, and took solace in a bottle, only to have their frustrations resurface, to be directed at their wife and kids in the form of violence.

That is what Jake the Muss taught me - that understanding someone's pain, and their sense of loss, does not preclude you from despising their actions.  You can do both.  And wonder at yourself for doing so.

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