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the dark heart of white South Africa
mjneu5921 December 2010
With a limited budget and a largely non-professional cast, 26-year old writer director Elaine Proctor made one of the more perceptive dramas about Apartheid, presenting a journey into the twisted conscience of white South Africa, represented by a Defense Force veteran who, after too many years in Conrad's Heart of Darkness, brings the war home with him. The memory of his atrocities and the repressive habits of his strict religious upbringing soon lead to a series of increasingly brutal sexual encounters with his wife (who at first actually enjoys being treated "like a kaffir"), and to an equally violent reaction against the hypocrisies of his privileged Calvinist community, In Proctor's brilliantly understated script the silences between words are often more eloquent than the dialogue itself, and the uncomplicated imagery (shot in raw 16mm) occasionally gives way to startling ironies: a birthday cake, for example, topped with tiny, decorative barbed wire. The film is complex, ambiguous, and more than a little disturbing, prompting an equal measure of sympathy and revulsion toward its protagonist. The ending may be a little too optimistic, but a single ray of sunlight is necessary after so grim a story.
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