Voyeuristic shocker goes nowhere, says nothing

2011-07-25 00:00

I HONESTLY don’t know how I feel about this film. It echoes the aesthetics of American Beauty (1999), The Visitor (2007) and A Single Man (2009) with its own unique feel, but there seem to be too many loose ends and too little holding the film together to propel it to the same high calibre that those films obtained.

The film’s approach is voyeuristic with many static and long scenes coupled with intense close-ups and an amazing musical score by Ben Ludik.

The pace is slow, but the tension peaks throughout the film, with most scenes speaking in imagery rather than words, using silence and synchronous sound to their maximum effect. However, once the film reaches its shocking climax — with a scene that will keep people talking about the film long after it’s over — the tension and drive simply falls into nihilism and it becomes directionless and drawn out, going nowhere and saying nothing.

Dean Lotz delivers an award-worthy performance as Francois van Heerden, a controlling married man in his mid-forties from Bloemfontein who seems to be losing his grip on life. His wife is cheating on him, his daughter doesn’t obey him, his finances are tight, his company is not doing well and he finds pleasure in having sex with other middle-aged men, who are not gay. He develops an obsessive desire for Christian (Charlie Keegan), a handsome young law student and model from Cape Town who is the son of his old friend and is dating his daughter. He stalks Christian hungrily like a predator, unable to free himself from his uncontrollable desire to possess or destroy Christian’s beauty.

The closing scenes of the film offer no resolutions and the film leaves you feeling uneasy as the credits roll, but not disturbed enough to leave a lasting impression.

Skoonheid is South African director Oliver Hermanus’s second feature film (his first being the memorable Shirley Adams) and is one of the films being screened at the Durban International Film Festival.

Other talents on set include Jamie Ramsay as director of photography (District 9) and Didier Costet as co-screenwriter and producer. ***

•Watch Skoonheid at the Durban International Film Festival today and on July 30 at 6 pm in Musgrave Centre, Durban. The film is in English and Afrikaans with English subtitles.

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