White Shadows in the South Seas (Van Dyke & Flaherty, 1928)

White Shadows in the South Seas (W.S. Van Dyke & Roberty J. Flaherty, 1928)

I’m a Robert J. Flaherty fan, which is the reason I watched this. Though I’m not sure how much involvement he had in the film. (IMDb says he was involved with early shooting.) Regardless, it felt like a Flaherty movie. Filmed on location in the south seas, the film tells the story of greed and corruption in native lands, and the inability to break away from it, and spends a large amount of time watching the native people perform daily practices, such as hunting and food preparation. On top of all that, it is also a love story between a white doctor and a native girl.

The film works best as a love story. The doctor is washed up on shore and treated like a god by the natives. He notices the chief’s daughter and falls for her, but not until he saves the chief’s son from drowning does he receive permission to pursue her. Their time spent together, including a fantastic long take of them riding a canoe along the sea, is the highlight of the film. The themes of greed and corruption might make the film seem more ‘important’, but didn’t really do much for me.  7.5/10


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