Dinge van ‘n Kind

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Melissa Myburg in Dinge van 'n kind.
Melissa Myburg in Dinge van 'n kind.
Photo: kykNET

SHOW:

Dinge van ‘n Kind

WHERE TO WATCH:

KykNET – DStv 144 (From Tuesday, 10 May at 20:00)

OUR RATING:

2/5 Stars

WHAT IT'S ABOUT:

The series of ten episodes revolves around the trials and tribulations of Mart Vermaak. The disillusionment of her coming-of-age years takes place against the political upheavals of the late 1970s, but an older Mart finds herself in a different kind of predicament.

WHAT WE THOUGHT:

Marita van der Vyver's beloved novel Die Dinge van 'n Kind was instantly iconic when it was first published in 1994, almost 30 years ago. However, the novel is still as impactful today as it was back then. 

The new South Africa was barely in its infant phase and the dark clouds of apartheid still raining down heavy on the nation when Marita's special book had teenagers turning pages faster than today’s generation flips through Instagram Stories.

In a world of taboos, Die Dinge van 'n Kind was a welcome escape and secretive source of information for those that felt a little lost in their adolescent journey in a country built on inequality and the heinous infringement of human rights. Mart’s journey of sexual, moral, and political awakening was a thrilling read that sparked dreams and fantasies of breaking free from conservative Afrikanerdom.

I had hoped that the 10-part series on kykNET would embrace the same kind of rebellious bravery and the zealousness of a generation that wanted change. Instead, this TV adaptation plays it safe and stays neatly within the lines. It's clear that a lot of attention was placed on the spectacular locations, breath-taking cinematography, and period-accurate costumes – but somewhere in the neatness of this perfect package the show is missing a warm heartbeat.

It's difficult to explain how reading Die Dinge van 'n Kind made me feel as a teenager, but I know it's not there when I watch the show. Perhaps it's the miffiness of getting older and becoming a cynic, but if you’re going to take on a "beloved" literary piece it's only fair that you accept the high expectations that come with it.

The scenes with young Mart (Melissa Myburgh) and Dalena (Mienke Elhers) are an absolute joy to watch. Both actors do a splendid job of pulling in the viewer with authentic portrayals that conjure up childhood nostalgia. From the moment Dalena does her sassy walk down the corridor to her dorm room and throws down her suitcases, the show gets the jolt of energy it needed to kick start the journey.

Eagle-eyed viewers will pick up subtle references embedded in the background of the 1970s flashbacks that tell a story of their own and allude to rebellion (smoke escaping from a school's bathroom window) and SA's devastating apartheid history (black characters only seen in the background). 

But all this hard work is constantly interrupted by flashes to the modern-day. These completely unnecessary current day scenes are cringeworthy at best and destroys the rhythm that the flashbacks work so hard to create.

Time jumps can be tricky, but it's been done countless times before in many a TV show. The secret is that the switch between the periods should be so smooth and effortless that it feels natural and fitting to be pluck from one era and thrown into the next.

In my opinion, this is Dinge van 'n Kind's biggest downfall. It feels like two different TV shows filmed by two different teams unsuccessfully mashed together. Just when the viewer really gets sucked deep into Mart and Dalena's thrilling adventures we get pulled back to a nagging mom and annoyingly rude son who storms out before even having melktert.

Local war films like Moffie and Kanarie have successfully showed the power of confronting our past on screen, and the essential rawness that comes with wholeheartedly battling our own demons. 

kykNET’s Dinge van 'n Kind is a well-made, watchable show, that's absolutely fine. But a literary masterpiece deserves more than just "fine". If you’re looking for Heartstopper authenticity, Blood & Water drama, or Euphoria rebellion, best keep looking. 

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:

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