She searched for a home, she searched for love. Confronted by Apartheid and a father who was Minister of censorship. With men like Jack Cope and Andre Brink she found much love, but no home. In his first speech to the South African Parliament Nelson Mandela read her poem "The Dead Child of Nyanga" and addresses her as one of the finest poets of South Africa. Written by
Butterflies tries to show us the hardship of the poet Ingrid Jonker in the 50's and 60's in South Africa; her social and mental struggles and the clashes with her family. Striving for equality between the races, she finds herself opposed to her father who heads up a government censorship board.
This could have been a good backdrop for some decent drama and the portrayal of a country raped by apartheid. But besides shoving an unlikable protagonist down our throats (Jonker), the film offered very little in the way of plot and dialog. What was presented in stead was a 90 minute volley of uneasy situations with Jonker interacting with characters who turned up whenever the script required it without a plot-inspired narrative flow.
The connections to her surrounding characters are never really explored and the development of situations felt awkwardly and needlessly rushed. The interactions between Jonker and her father for example, which should have been key scenes in the film, lacked any additional purpose besides the very obvious. Screenwriter Greg Latter, who did much better when he wrote the screenplay for the 2007 movie Forgiveness, also set in South Africa, really missed the mark here by only serving up predictable dialog for a historical drama that already lacked a discernible outline.
Neither van Houten nor Hauer were particularly convincing in their roles and the acting by Liam Cunningham made their performances pale in comparison. But it was most of all van Houten who clearly wasn't up to the task. Her crass Dutch accent was particularly annoying, especially considering how easy it should be for a Dutch actress to get the S.A. accent right. Her acting also felt a bit labored at times which was compounded by her role mostly being fed dramatic clichés.
There's a good soundtrack however, accompanying some very beautiful imagery but the movie as a whole is a rather lackluster and exasperating watch.
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