Reviews

Afrikaanse ‘horror’

The following reviews were written by the final-year undergraduate students in the Theatre Studies 314 Film and Media Theory component at the University of Stellenbosch as an exercise in film criticism. Students were instructed to review any South African film or short film released in the past two years, and to consider the film's artistic merit and appeal to the public in light of its context and production values. By publishing these reviews on SLiPnet, we hope to extend the quality of critical interaction with South African film.

prinses en bloedson

Boerezombie apocalypse
Chris Pienaar
Bloedson [film]. 2013. Directed by Albert Snyman, Louis Pretorius. South Africa: Moebius.

Another zombie film you may ask? Well, yes. But this one is quite unique for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is the first Zombie film made in Afrikaans and secondly it tells the fictional alternate history story of the Boer War. Bloedson formed part of the 2013 short film competition, sponsored by Kyknet, and premiered at the Silwerskerm film festival in March that year. Thirteen scripts were accepted and each production received a budget of R120 000.

Jan van Riebeeck, westernisation, the Dutch Reformed Church, the Groot Trek, the Boer War and the Border War are the historical moments most deep-rooted in the Afrikaner psyche. These events are also more likely to evoke sentiment. Directors Albert Snyman and Louis Pretorius (both Afrikaans) set the viewer up for another emotional war film, reminiscent of “the good old days”. The opening scene is of a gushy Boer burial with a dominee cooing “Nader my God by U”, the same tune that sent the Titanic to the depths. The corpse twitches. Strange. The dominee leans into the grave to see whether the boer is still alive, and suddenly the Kakie is not the antagonist anymore: the Boers are facing bloodthirsty, man-eating zombies. Thus, the Boer War – that holy cow of contemporary Afrikaans culture, upheld as the epitome of Afrikaner pride – is re-envisioned as a zombie apocalypse, where the hapless Boers are fighting their own, as well as the English.

Wilhelm van der Walt plays the character of Dirk, a conscientious Boer who forms part of a commando that attacked an English camp with unsuccessful results. Dirk’s older brother, Brink, played by Jacques Theron, became a bounty hunter who turned against the Afrikaners after Dirk married his girlfriend. Brink is driven by his hate and passion to assassinate his brother. While the blood feud plays out in a deserted forest, the dark secrets and true motives of the characters start to surface. Their focus changes when they stumble upon an innocent girl (Karli Heine) who seemingly has rabies. Little do they know that the real bloodbath is only about to start.

The film is constructed to mock the horror genre and the conventions associated with it. Also to unsettle the viewer, consequently achieving the goal of a horror… to scare. The audience falls into the traps they were consciously set up for. The horror genre is known for using close-up shots as a technique to hide the space surrounding the victim, so as to surprise the viewer when the villain (in this case, the zombie) attacks. The “abrupt split-second-double-climax-rebirth” trick is also successfully employed. The viewer is caught laughing at him/herself for falling for such an old and obvious hoax.

The film breaks fundamental film school commandments. Thou shalt not use jump cuts. Broken. Thou shalt not break the 180-degree rule. Broken. It is unclear whether it was intentional or due to budget constraints and the use of only a single camera. But it works tremendously well in the spirit of the film. Sometimes the viewer is disorientated. Sometimes the film looks cheap (often the case with horror films). Sometimes the viewer is just plain scared.

Bloedson questions tradition, pride and its value in a contemporary society. The film satirises Afrikaans culture and history like few other South African films dare to, with a blatant disregard for old-fashioned Afrikaans sentiment. It does not mind laughing at itself and other films, horror conventions and pop culture. Maybe there is a place for the contemporary myth of zombies in our history after all.

A zombie movie in Afrikaans is a significant landmark to the new generation of South African filmmakers. Bloedson is a step in the right direction. I genuinely hope that Bloedson will slaughter the public's prevailing perception of the schlock that has invaded the Afrikaans film genre in recent times.

Ken jou demone
Magdel Venter
Prinses. 2013. Life in a Bulb Productions. Regie deur Mornè du Toit.

Elke familie het geraamtes in die kas maar wat gebeur as hierdie geraamtes skielik lewe kry?

Prinses, wat deel gevorm het van Kyknet se Silwerskerm 2013 filmfees, onder leiding van skrywer en regisseur Morné du Toit met bekendes soos Bertha Le Roux en Dirk Stoltz, vertel die verhaal van die Rossouw familie wat op die oog af na ʼn doodgewone familie lyk. Hulle het egter ʼn duistere verlede en die kort-film begin met ʼn verdrinking. Jare later in dieselfde huis begin daar snaakse, bonatuurlike dinge gebeur en die jongste dogter Simonè (gespeel deur Jane van der Westhuizen) word deur die spook van ʼn ou vrou geteister en die ou vrou neem haar lyf oor. Skielik vlek die ou vrou al die familie se geheime oop en hulle besef wie sy eintlik is. Die waarheid oor die verdrinking aan die begin van die verhaal word ontrafel en die gebeure vorm ʼn dodelike sirkel.

Hierdie film kan miskien vir sommige kykers afskrik as gevolg van die bonatuurlike aard van die storie lyn. Die genre is ook baie gewild onder jong mense as gevolg van die kommersiële suksesse wat gruwel films in Amerika bereik het asook in Suid-Afrika. Die genre en veral die spesifieke storietipe wat in Prinses voorkom, is afkomstig van die gruwels van Japan. Amerika het jare later hierdie gruwels oorvertaal en verwerk en films soos The Grudge en The Ring was toonaangewende films wat ʼn hele nuwe generasie van jong mense sou bangmaak en fassineer.

Prinses is geen uitsondering nie. Spanning word opgebou deur die musiek wat gebruik word en met tye word die gehoor skrik gemaak deur die skielike verskyning van die ou vrou of die kind wat ʼn demoniese alter ego aanneem. Die atmosfeer wat geskep word deur die musiek, beligting en die donkere ondertoon van die storielyn, laat die gehoor ongemaklik voel asof iets verkeerd is. Die grimering van die akteurs, veral die wat bonatuurlike karakters ook moes speel, was baie goed gedoen en dit kon maklik vergelyk word met die Amerikaanse gruwels se grimering.

Dit was interessant om Berta Le Roux in so ’n donker rol te sien – die karakter is heeltemal anders as 7de Laan se Emma, waarmee Bertha in Suid-Afrikaners se harte ingekruip het. As die ma is sy ʼn koue, liefdelose, alkoholiese vrou wat haar jongste dogter se lewe heeltemal wil beheer. Dit is ʼn ongelooflike komplekse karakter en die skrywer kry dit reg om die gehoor die ma te laat jammer kry aan die einde van die kort film. Simonè was ook ʼn komplekse karakter en daar moes duidelike onderskeid getrek word tussen die dogter en wanneer sy in haar demoniese alter ego verander. Dit is egter ʼn moeilike taak en iets waarin die jong aktrise kon slaag met behulp van die wonderlike grimering.

Al wat miskien vir die gehoor problematies kan wees, is die feit dat dit ʼn rukkie neem voordat al die legkaartstukkies mooi in plek val. Maar as jy eers die sirkel getrek het en die nodige afleidings gemaak het sal die storie heeltemal sin maak en al die kleiner dele sal bymekaar inpas.

Dit sal moeilik wees om nie die tipe films met hul Amerikaanse eweknieë te vergelyk nie aangesien hierdie genre net soos die “romantic comedy” ʼn baie gewilde genre wêreldwyd is. Uit ʼn Suid-Afrikaanse perspektief, is die kort-film ʼn vars, tuisgebakte produk wat net so kan skrikmaak soos enige van die Amerikaanse rillers. As jy nie bang is vir skrikmaak stories nie is hierdie kort film definitief reg in jou kraal.

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The Stellenbosch Literary Project was set up in February 2011 as a public media and events platform to advance literary and performance culture in all languages in South Africa.

A project of the Department of English at Stellenbosch University, SLiP also acts as a hub for community engagement in both the literary and performance spheres.

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