a film by Oliver Hermanus
2011 | 100 mins | South Africa
›› Beauty - Skoonheid
a hauntingly dark portrait of sexual desire.
Beauty by Oliver Hermanus
Adapted Synopsis:-

Forty-something François lives a controlled, well managed life in Bloemfontein, South Africa, as the hard working boss of his own timber business.

Father of two daughters and a devoted husband, he is wholly unprepared when a chance encounter with twenty-three-year-old Christian; a student in the final year of his law degree and the son of a long lost friend, results with his ordered existence unravelling by way of his all consuming infatuation and misplaced lust for this handsome young man. But at what cost to man and boy?
Beauty by Oliver Hermanus
Dave Says:-

Character driven by nature, this intense work from writer and director Oliver Hermanus acutely details the mindset of a deeply closeted gay man whose dreams of leaving his heterosexual façade behind, have forever collided with the reality of living in a country that in years past, was all too homophobic. And it is here that Deon Lotz excels, being every inch the dutiful family man of the piece, that of a burly individual with a hidden rage within, seemingly locked in a marriage whose words of love are not matched by any physical expression, leaving what few moments of sexual freedom come his way courtesy of the company of other likeminded - think married individuals into acts of man-sex, provided they're not effeminate or coloured.

Thus the stage has been set. Only is the viewer prepared for what is to follow? For in having established the hidden side to François' sexuality early on, Hermanus now delights in adding layers of dramatic tension to his work, with François' longing for Christian, nicely played by Charlie Keegan in his screen debut, building to an all the more alarming nature, as François takes to stalking his prey, that of an innocent youth falling for the charms of François' daughter Anika, but blind to the predatory intentions of her father.

Complete with numerous observational sequences purposely devoid of spoken dialogue, together with many a take that beautifully captures the lush Afrikaner setting, this is a film that and in spite of its many positives and here cue strong acting and production values throughout, nevertheless allows a number of characters and a key one in particular, to all but vanish into the narrative mist, leaving a series of unanswered questions / assumptions in their wake.

All of which makes for a work somewhat surprisingly devoid of moral judgement, a narrative decision that will almost surely be met with strong reactions given the shocking development in the final act. Then again, I dare say that some will find certain scenes in need of the odd nip 'n' tuck here and there, whilst others will no doubt rejoice in their lingering, often voyeuristic nature, as we see the world through François' sexually repressed eyes. Produced with the financial support of The Global Film Initiative and winner of the Queer Palm prize at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, the fact that this overtly gay feature was submitted as South Africa's official entry in the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 84th Academy Awards, 2012, undoubtedly says something. But after watching this film and frankly one scene in particular is not easy to watch, many may question the blatantly unsettling delivery of that message, in this hauntingly dark portrait of sexual desire.

As a sidenote, Hermanus is on record as stating that "the reality ... is that the main character is not gay," a statement that like the film itself, will no doubt prove controversial.

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - brief explicit gay porn. 
Overall - file under ... 4 stars. 

›› Available to buy from Amazon.com.

›› Available to buy from Amazon.co.uk.
available on DVD as part of the Peccadillo Pictures catalogue: 8.October.2012 / UK.
available on DVD as part of the TLA Releasing catalogue: 23.October.2012 / US.
screened as part of the 26th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, 2012.
principal players: Deon Lotz / François van Heerden, Charlie Keegan / Christian, Michelle Scott / Elena van Heerden,
Albert Maritz / Willem, Sue Diepeveen / Marika, Roeline Daneel / Anika, Drikus Volschenk / Cliff Engel,
Morne Visser / Brian, Leon Kruger / Henri and Robin Smith as Gideon.
Copyright 2012 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #527
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