REVIEW OF THE WEEK
FILM: THE ENDLESS RIVER
CAST: CRYSTAL-DONNA ROBERTS, NICOLAS DUVAUCHELLE, DARREN KELFKENS, DENISE NEWMAN, CLAYTON EVERTSON
DIRECTOR: OLIVER HERMANUS
REVIEWER: PETER FELDMAN
Oliver Hermanus is a prominent South African filmmaker with an art-house style that concentrates on depicting visual beauty and atmosphere. A pity, though, that his script lacks real substance and his characters are somewhat under developed entities.
‘The Endless River’, his third cinematic offering, is a visually appealing enterprise. This has a lot to do with Chris Lotz’s skilful cinematography, which captures the striking Western Cape landscape and the various characters who inhabit it.
The production is punctuated with interminably long pauses and a paucity of dialogue, giving viewers the feeling that he is attempting to milk each scene for maximum atmospheric effect. This approach is slow and laboured at times, with Hermanus, no doubt, hoping that the facial expressions, and continuous close-ups, of his characters will help in the storytelling process.
The film, set in Riviersonderend, a small town in the Western Cape, is structured to represent three different “chapters”, each one named after the three key characters.
There is Percy (Clayton Evertson), a tough criminal who has just been released from a four-year stint in prison for a gang-related crime. Then there is his somewhat fretful and abused wife Tiny (Crystal-Donna Roberts), who is a waitress at a local restaurant. The third character is recent arrival, a Frenchman named Gilles (Nicolas Duvauchelle with a funny accent), whose family have been brutally murdered on their nearby farm.
The local police, headed by a dour Afrikaner named Groenewald (Darren Kelfens), are doing very little about it. It is no surprise then that Gilles is getting more frustrated by the day as the case seems to have ground to a halt, though all indications are that a local gang was responsible for the rape and murder of Gilles’ wife and the death of his two sons.
The languid Groenewald, who has seen it all, notes that nothing was taken during this home invasion and believes the crime was a gang initiation rite.
The relationship between Percy and Tiny is strained to say the least.
Percy is moody, tense and uncommunicative, much to the chagrin of his sympathetic mother Mona (Denise Newman). He still has ties to the local gang, and while Groenewald knows the gang members were responsible for the crime, he has no evidence to prove it. He is biding his time.
Meanwhile, Gilles, who visits the restaurant on a regular basis, has taken a liking to Tiny and is determined to get to know the shy, diminutive waitress better – despite the facts that he is still mourning the death of his family and that Tiny is married to a gangster.
Though they come from vastly different worlds, grief finds a common ground here and the two link up – but as the story unspools there is a persistent sense of deep foreboding to the relationship.
‘The Endless River’ does attempt to raise some pertinent moral issues, but it wallows so relentlessly in gloom that it becomes a challenge to care about what happens to its characters. It meanders on and even when the prospect of revenge rears its ugly head, there is no build-up of tension.
The acting, for the most part, is pedestrian, though it must be said that the always reliable Denis Newman shines in her smallish role and Crystal-Donna Roberts effects her spiritual transformation well.
We all know that violence has become endemic in South Africa and numerous indigenous films have managed to convey this alarming malaise in our society.
Here Hermanus depicts the rape and murder of Gilles’ wife in chilling, but prolonged detail, all executed to the accompaniment of Braam Du Toit’s strident musical score.
This overstated, melodramatic scene tended to leave this reviewer unsympathetic to the director’s intention.
Overall, the film’s commentary on South Africa offers few fresh insights and falls short as a realistic drama.
Other releases (synopsis)
FILM: THE BFG
CAST: Mark Rylance, Ruby Barnhill, Bill Hader, Rebecca Hall
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg
The talents of two of the world’s greatest storytellers – Roald Dahl and Steven Spielberg – unite for the first time to bring Dahl’s beloved classic ‘The BFG’ to life on screen. Directed by Spielberg, ‘The BFG’ tells the imaginative story of a young girl and the Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country.
In the middle of the night, when every child and every grown-up is in a deep, deep sleep, all the dark things come out from hiding and have the world to themselves. That’s what Sophie (newcomer Ruby Barnhill), a precocious 10-year-old, has been told, and that’s what she believes as she lies sleepless in her own bed at her London orphanage. While all the other girls in the dormitory dream their dreams, Sophie risks breaking one of Mrs. Clonkers’s many rules to climb out of her bed, slip on her glasses, lean out the window and see what the world looks like in the moonlit silence of the witching hour. Outside, in the ghostly, silvery light, her familiar street looks more like a fairy tale village than the one she knows, and out of the darkness comes something long and tall…very, very, tall. That something is a giant (Mark Rylance) who takes Sophie and whisks her away to his home in a land far, far away.
Fortunately for Sophie, he is the big friendly giant and nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country. Standing 24-feet-tall with enormous ears and a keen sense of smell, the BFG is endearingly dim-witted and keeps to himself for the most part. His brothers are twice as big and at least twice as scary, and have been known to eat humans, but the BFG is a vegetarian and makes do with a disgusting vegetable called Snozzcumber.
Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie is initially frightened of the mysterious giant, but soon comes to realize that the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming, and since she has never met a giant before, is full of questions. The BFG brings Sophie to Dream Country where he collects dreams and sends them to children, teaching her all about the magic and mystery of dreams. Having both been on their own in the world up until now, an unexpected friendship blossoms. But Sophie’s presence in Giant Country has attracted the unwanted attention of the other giants, who have become increasingly more bothersome. Sophie and the BFG soon depart for London to see the Queen and warn her of the precarious giant situation, but they must first convince her that giants do indeed exist. Together, they come up with a plan to get rid of the giants once and for all.
The film reunites Spielberg with his Oscar-nominated collaborator on ‘E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial’, Melissa Mathison, who adapted the childrens author’s timeless adventure for the big screen.
FILM: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS
CAST: Megan Fox, Will Arnett, Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek, Jeremy Howard, Stephen Amell, Tyler Perry, Brian Tee
DIRECTOR: Dave Green
Michelangelo, Donatello, Leonardo, and Raphael return to theatres to battle bigger, badder villains, alongside April O’Neil (Megan Fox), Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett), and a newcomer: the hockey-masked vigilante Casey Jones (Stephen Amell). After supervillain Shredder (Brian Tee) escapes custody, he joins forces with mad scientist Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) and two dim-witted henchmen, Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (WWE Superstar Stephen “Sheamus” Farrelly), to unleash a diabolical plan to take over the world. As the Turtles prepare to take on Shredder and his new crew, they find themselves facing an even greater evil with similar intentions: the notorious Krang.
FILM: FATHERS & DAUGHTERS
CAST: Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Aaron Paul, Diane Kruger, Kylie Rogers, Jane Fonda, Octavia Spencer
DIRECTOR: Gabriele Muccino
A Pulitzer-winning writer (Russell Crowe) grapples with being a widower and father after a mental breakdown, while, 27 years later, his grown daughter struggles to forge connections of her own.