08 March 2013

Movie Review: Beauty

This movie kept popping up here and there for me to watch. It has gripping and stunning cinematography, which for me is like a mouse to a Palawan Pitcher plant. So beautiful to the senses until you slip and fall into its acidic digestion apparatus.

The movie is slow to start and the use of both English and Afrikaans (or kitchen Dutch) was a bit confusing and hard to follow -- the subtitles didn't help. We meet François who is a successful white South African who lives in an emotionally distant marriage, is racist and homophobic, and enjoys regular but occasional sexual encounters with a group of married men that have as their group's motto: "no faggots, no coloureds". The sex that he has with his partner in this club setting is dissociated and jarring to say the least and his involvement with it is equally dissociative.

As we learn in the beginning, François happens to come upon his friend's son, Christian. It is not entirely clear if Christian is gay. If it was clear, I didn't get the translation. But Christian studying in English school, has a posh kind of accent, hugs at least one "coloured" man at school and hangs out with his daughter.

François starts to obsess about Christian and stalks him. Some of his information gathering techniques are quite awkward and clunky and because he hides his homosexuality so well, it goes mostly unnoticed or ignored -- like when he asks Christians father for his mobile number. Yikes!

Charlie Keegan as Christian

The director and screenwriter purposefully hide key elements of François' personality from us until somehow François gets Christian alone in a hotel room and they start drinking. 

I won't ruin the end of the movie for you because its a triple shocker. So if you want to enjoy the movie in all its psychological suspense, read no further until after you've watched the film.

The hotel scene was a bit jarring. In part because François makes a pass at Christian who brushes it off. Christian has asked for François confidence and confidential assistance, to which François has said yes. That is the reason for Christian being in François' hotel room. Yet, even after some alcohol, François' attempt to kiss Christian is rejected but brushed off. Christian makes a nervous laugher. François attempts again more aggressively and before Christian can get up to leave or do anything else. François has him pinned to the bed where he struggles madly to get François off him. Instead, François punches him repeatedly in the face and chokes him. Finally, with bloodied face, François unzips and forces his penis down Christian's bloody mouth as Christian has gone into a deadened, shock state. François rapes Christian who, as the camera lingers as it did with François' stalking scenes, Christian trembles in tears as he slowly gathers himself.

The movie continues for a substantial amount of time (maybe 20 minutes or so). And in that time, we do not know what if anything Christian has done to remedy this rape. It was hard to stomach the rape scene and ending the movie without resolution or anything further about Christian made me somewhat angry. But by this point, like the mouse who slips into the Palawan Pitcher plant, it was too late. I was already being digested by the beast.

The cinematography was beautiful and was likely key to delivering the emotional tone and psychological matrix within which this story could be successfully told. That being said, the (in my mind) unresolved rape scene makes this a view discretion is advised film.

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