Screened as part of NZIFF 2011
Francois, a tough, buttoned-down Afrikaaner in his mid-40s, has kept his homosexuality out of sight for years – it’s men’s business, after all. But a growing obsession with his friend’s handsome, law-student son Christian brings disturbing intimations of alternative possibilities. From the moment we meet Francois, hosting his daughter’s wedding, the camera joins him in envious pursuit of the self-possessed young man. Learning that Christian works as a model and actor, or spying on his suave interactions with his male friends, Francois assumes that the young man is gay. Maybe he’s right, but the assumption in itself is revealing of an ominous generation gap. Only 20 years apart, these two men have grown up in utterly different worlds, one vested in white male control, the other in the efficacy of social fluency and calculated self-improvement. The closer Francois draws to Christian, the more dreadful it seems the burden of desire and anger that he may heap on the young man is going to be.
This ferocious, compact drama of repression electrified and divided audiences at Cannes. The Competition’s first-ever film in Afrikaans, it left with the Festival’s first-ever Queer Palme. A verdict that surely will mean even more to 27-year-old writer/director Oliver Hermanus will be revealed in August when his trenchant portrait of a very specific society and moment in time is released on home ground. — BG
“This deeply disturbing jaunt lulls the viewer into a rhythm of sameness before destroying all notions of safety… Beauty is a dynamic character study of a human cannonball waiting to rip through the walls of life-long repression, but it’s the most difficult cinematic experience I’ve had at Cannes.” — Glenn Heath Jr, slantmagazine.com