Produced by Kevin Costner; this film is set on Easter Island in 1680. A legend speaks of the early settlement of the island and the “discovery” of the spot by Europeans (the Dutch) in 1722. The people of the island called this place the navel of the world – Rapa Nui. The central story of this movie is a Romeo and Juliet tale of two lovers from rival tribes. They are both very beautiful. The background story is concerned with the power politics among chieftains and priests within the warring factions, the Long Ears and Short Ears. There are some good scenes depicting the building of the great sculptures for which the island is most famous. Much footage is given to the process by which they were erected, similar to that of erecting the obelisks of Egypt.
Life on the island is cruel. Social order is maintained through brutal repressions. There is to be a gathering of the clans and games that will give one contestant the honor of being “Bird Man.” The young Romeo (played by Jason Scott Lee, of Chinese-Hawaiian descent – he played Bruce Lee in 1993) must win the contest in order to marry his beloved (Sandrine Holt, Eurasian Canadian), who has been confined in the Virgin Cave. There is a young man from the girl’s clan who wants to compete for her. The loser will face sacrifice. On the day of the games, the men set off on a fierce race across mountainous terrain, swimming on reed surf boards, retrieving an egg laid by nesting birds on an outlying island, and returning the egg safely to the starting place. It’s a close race but Romeo wins.
The Long Ear priest comes to put the loser to death, but the oppressed Short Ears rise up and begin a violent revolution. There is terrible destruction and all the hated statues are pulled down. This is followed by a cannibal feast. Romeo and his love are reunited; she has borne him a child. He says he understands now why his father left the island long ago. The old man who trained the youth for the games – he is father of the girl – makes them a wedding present of a boat. They sail off against the backdrop of the setting sun.
A print legend reports that archeological evidence indicates that Pitcairn Island, some 1500 miles to the east, was settled by Easter Islanders. It is an epic of the tribal foundations of Civilization, and of the endless psychodrama of overcoming the base impulses beneath the façade. Despite the use of very handsome, half-naked, actors with credentials from other films, this film failed to capture the interest of the Western world audience. Sandrine Holt played the title role in Pocahontas: The Legend (1995). This movie was even less accessible for her than Rapa Nui.