Beauty [skoonheid]

"Extraordinary"

Beauty [skoonheid] Review


Intensely personal filmmaking takes us deep into this darkly involving drama about a man who simply doesn't have the skills to deal with his inner desires.

And watching it is a challenging, moving experience that's hard to shake.

Francois (Lotz) is a middle-aged man with a rather tired marriage to Elena (Scott). After their older daughter's wedding, their younger daughter (Daneel) starts seeing Christian (Keegan), son of family friends (Maritz and Diepeveen).

But Francois also takes a new interest in the now-adult Christian. Which takes on new meaning when he joins a group of husbands in an isolated farmhouse for a secret gay orgy. Over the next few days, his interest in Christian turns into an obsession that he has no idea how to control.

From the gorgeous tone-setting opening shot, director Hermanus puts us into Francois' point of view in such an intimate way that we can see what he's thinking. Remarkably, we never see the directorial gears turning, we just feel everything Francois feels. So even when events begin to get a bit menacing, we understand that this is a man who lives in a homophobic society that has never allowed him to express his true feelings. So how can he possibly know what to do when they grow this strong?

This sensitive filmmaking allows the cast to deliver unusually thoughtful performances. Much of the action takes place in long shot, as Francois watches Christian from a distance and contrives to meet up with him for business and family reasons. This gnawing fixation is presented in a hauntingly matter-of-fact way through scenes that are beautifully played by Lotz and Keegan. Both actors pack telling information into the tiniest movements. And Scott also has some potent scenes as Elena, including one subtle revelation that comes as a conflicted relief to Francois.

But what we feel mostly is Francois' paralysing fear, self-doubt and the frustration that he wishes he was the person everyone thinks he is. So the film's squirmingly horrific climactic scene completely throws us off. It's impossible to see Francois as a villain when he's been subtly victimised his whole life. And yet the tragedy is that, even as his society is now opening up, he remains trapped in his unhappy life. This is wrenchingly beautiful, painful, haunting filmmaking.



Facts and Figures

Production compaines: TLA Releasing, Moonlighting Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Oliver Hermanus

Producer: Didier Costet

Starring: Charlie Keegan as Christian, as François, Michelle Scott as Elena van Heerden, Albert Maritz as Willem, Roeline Daneel as Anika van Heerden, Sue Diepeveen as Marika van Heerde, Marion Holm as Distant aunt, as Doctor, Leon Kruger as Henri, Elsie Potgieter as Young woman

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