1st June 2018

Dark Horse

In the 2014  Film “Dark Horse” by James Napier Robertson, Maori gang life is portrayed to be dirty, disgusting and devastating. The Authenticity of this is unfortunately, a mere reality in Maori New Zealand. This concept it introduced to us in backyard of the “Vagrants Aotearoa” clubhouse, where Mana is getting patched for his 15th Birthday. This scene is used to portray the dirty reality of violence, binge drinking and gang life that main character Genesis is trying to escape. Rolleston uses Camera shots, Dialogue, Body Language and Lighting to show these concepts.


The camera shots that Robertson uses are Close up, Mid shot and over the shoulder shot. He uses the close up in instances when he wants to show off things like Mana’s swollen black eye, or Genesis’s face when he confronts the gang members. The close up shot is good because it shows someones face and their emotions. In instances when Rolleston does a close up on Mana you can see his black swollen eye and how scared he looks.

The mid shot is used so that we can still see the character but we can also see the surrounding. It is used when Genesis walks through the backyard of “Vagrants Aotearoa” clubhouse, so we can see all the Maoris drinking, smoking and being silly. The mid shot helps set the scene but is still focused on the character. The over the shoulder shot is predominately used when a confrontation happens. It is used when Genesis confronts a gang member. It is used so that we can see Genesis’s face and his emotions but we can also see the back of the man he is face to face with. The over the shoulder shot also makes it seem like we are in the action of the movie. By prodominitaly using these shots and editing them together Rolleston really brings the audience into the scene so we can be involved with what is going on and see how bad the gang life, Genesis’s mental disability and Mana’s patch night really is. It also gives people like me the chance to see a side of New Zealand that I am not heavily involved with.


Throughout the scene there is a lot of silence and very little spoken word. However, the little spoken word that there is is prodominitaly swearing  and slang. This use of swearing is really “in your face” to the audience and really shows us how bad the experience is. When Genesis grabs Mana and then confronts the gang member, Genesis asks the gang member “ how many times you been pissed on?”, the gang member replies “ F#ck you, F#ckyou MotherF#cker”. This extreme use of dialogue helps create the setting of the scene and shows how bad Genesis’s life really is. The use of excessive swearing also shows how uneducated the characters are because they don’t show any evidence of forming proper sentences throughout the scene. The “Dark Horse” is based on a true story and unfortunately, verbal abuse, drunken fights and pissing on people is still a scary reality for some New Zealanders. Gang problems like this is also something that noone in New Zealand has ever found an efficient and safe way of dealing with so still the problems thrive today.


Body language is something that can change someone’s perception of what is happening during a scene very easily. Robertson’s use of body language throughout this scene is exceptional and really brings the audience into the movie. When Genesis confronts the gang member he is shaking and freaking out, this shaking makes us believe that Genesis is scared and shows us that his mental state is very bad. The use of body language proves throughout the scene how bad the gang life and Mana’s patch night really is. Incorporated with the body language to make the scene seem bad is the use of very little lighting. The lighting technique that Robertson used was Low-Key Lighting and this is when shadow is emphasised. The only lighting throughout the scene is a fire in the background which makes the scene very dark and depressing. Having a dark scene makes everything very moody and really shows the danger of the situation. If the scene were to have been filmed with more light it or High-Key Lighting would have come across a lot less serious and happy.


In conclusion Robertsons use of Camera Shots, Dialogue, body language and lighting is very good throughout the scene and makes the scene come across as dirty, disgusting and devastating. When edited all together these four points make “Dark Horse” a very sad yet intriguing film and should be one for the record books. Robertson use of techniques was really effective in getting his point across about how it is hard for someone who is mentally ill to fit into a gang run society. What is took from this film is that people can be struggling to stay alive and fit into society but if they find something they love, like Genesis finds chess, then that can be their escape to a happier life.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. When you edit this, think about your use of vocabulary Marcus – can you use more formal or sophisticated words in some places?


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