Francois is a father and husband living in South Africa. He runs his own successful business, and one of his two daughters has recently been married. From the outside, he leads an idyllic life. But he hides a burning secret, and spends his lunch breaks meeting other married men to satisfy his true sexual desires. Then he meets the young Christian, and Francois’ life is thrown into disorder.
A number of conflicts are at work in SKOONHEID. The film is set in post-Apartheid South Africa, and also crucially in Bloemfontein, the capital of the former regime. The world surrounding Francois is ultra-conservative, with hints of the hidden, but prevailing, racism that his generation are still dealing with, having been raised in separatism. He and his kind are the minority where they once had power. To add to this position, Francois is further marginalised by his unknown sexual preference. He is forced to constantly mask his inner turmoil. A voyeur, he watches the world around him, and is obsessed with people who act freely. He is no longer a living person, but merely functions as such, in denial of his entire existence and lives vicariously through others. Meeting Christian emotionally moves him – and his reaction is to go to the doctor, not knowing what is wrong. He becomes like a moth to a flame, losing control to the point where he begins to break his own rules.
Deon Lotz carries the film well with very subtle acting, where slight inflections of expression replace the lines of dialogue that other films might use to explain his feelings.
The film is ponderous and at times slow, not easy viewing and with some truly horrific scenes. Shot almost entirely from Francois’ point of view, there are many long shots of distant happenings where, like Francois, the audience must guess conversations and situations. Deon Lotz, the lead actor, carries the film well with very subtle acting, where slight inflections of expression replace the lines of dialogue that other films might use to explain his feelings. His portrayal of a broken man is pitch perfect, transitioning from being very much a part of his world, until he is eventually incongruous and almost unrecognizable by his actions.
This is a highly engaging film; being privy to the inner workings of an extraordinary character, and set in a rarely-seen modern South Africa. Writer/Director Oliver Hermanus, following his much-lauded previous effort, SHIRLEY ADAMS, is certainly a new talent to watch.
- Black Butterflies by Mike Boyd (Editor-at-large)
- African Cinema and the London Film Festival by Mike Boyd (Editor-at-large)
- The 2nd Jozi Film Festival by Mike Boyd (Editor-at-large)