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A once-prosperous Senegalese village has been falling further into poverty year by year until the village's elders are reduced to selling town possessions to pay debts. Linguère, a former resident and local beauty, now very rich, returns to this, the village of her birth. The elders hope that she will be a benefactor to the village. To encourage her generosity, they appoint a local grocer, Dramaan, as mayor--who once courted her and will now try to persuade her to help. In fact, Linguère has returned with the intention of sharing her millions with the village but only in return for an unexpected action. This plot twist brings human folly and cynicism into sharp focus. Written by
Bruce Cameron <email@example.com>
I don't understand the glowing reviews for this movie. I suspect the previous reviewers don't actually know Durrenmat's actual work. What makes Den Besuch Der Alten Dame, the original play, work is it's humorous qualities. Durrenmatt believed that true tragedy no longer resonated properly with audiences, so he created a black comedy of epic proportions. It's grim, certainly, but it's also absurd and with a few characters who are over the top just the right amount. In Hyenas, all humor is gone. This movie attempts to be pure tragedy and, as Durrenmatt believed such an attempt would, it fails.
The movie does have it's virtues. The actress playing Ramatou is wonderfully stoic, and it suits the character. Setting it in rural Africa was a brilliant idea as well. The movie as a whole though is dry, slow paced, and often times grating (the two castrated characters are the comic relief in the play, and in the movie they've been turned into whimpering, horrible things, for example).
It's too bad. The American adaptation from the 60s stays truer to the play than this movie does, not in the details, but in spirit and tone. See that one instead. For that matter, it also has a major symbolic motif from the play that's entirely lacking here. When the American film version of a European play is better than a french version of the same play, something has gone terribly wrong. I give this movie a three, for the few things it did get right.
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