Beauty | Skoonheid
Director: Oliver Hermanus | South Africa 2011 | 98 mins | Cert:CLUB
Starring: Deon Lotz, Charlie Keegan and Michelle Scott
Beauty opens with a tracking shot through a wedding reception until the camera eventually stops to linger on a good-looking young man. The point of view is that of the father of the bride, François (Deon Lotz). The young man is Christian, the son of François’ oldest friend.
Typical of a sub-section of men who came of age during Apartheid, François is internally angry and overtly racist and homophobic, holding on to his power as a white South African male through the success of his business. But he has a secret. He regularly attends orgies with a group of similarly closeted middle-aged guys.
The voyeurism of the opening scene evolves as François begins to stalk Christian, gazing in on his relatively carefree life, unshackled by South Africa’s past. With a minimal script and long shots, director Hermanus enters François’ quiet desperation as it slowly turns to frustration, finally unshackling the rage at the heart of his alienation.
Much of the film focuses on François’ unchanging expression, which doesn’t give Lotz a lot to play with as an actor. Still he turns in a powerhouse performance, at once tense, heart-rending and repulsive in a devastating film that uses sexuality as a metaphor for South Africa’s fractured dysfunction. – Brian Finnegan, Editor of GCN