I've had to watch Beauty twice to feel I've more or less understood it, but this is not because it is unduly obscure; rather, it has a certain pared-down quality and fairly little dialogue, leaving a lot to the admirable Deon Lotz (as Francois) to convey simply through his expressions. Some of the most revealing moments come when he is in his car, as if it is only in such periods of isolation that he has some sense of the truth about himself. As a middle-aged married man, he manages to express his homosexual desires in secret group meetings with other married men, but when he falls for the 23-year-old son of an old friend from the airforce he is no longer able to keep this precarious balance and goes dangerously awry. To watch this happening is quite unsettling, and it is blended with other social observations suggesting the homophobia of his social milieu in South African society and also a degree of racism, although both remain somewhat nebulous. In other ways the film plays a bit like Death in Venice, but it could hardly be more different in terms of the contact he has with the object of his obsession in the end which has quite a shocking thwack. The film keeps the main character as the sole focus right to the final credits and does not deal with legal repercussions or tie anything up. A scene near the end reminded me strongly of the last scene in Michael Haneke's Hidden - a wide shot with many characters, where you scrutinise the image to find what matters! At other moments it feels as if the camera has been left on at the end of a scene by mistake, and the widescreen format leads to some interesting topping and tailing of characters that does seem to serve some expressive purpose. It is quite a fierce film, by no means easy to watch, and with a very flawed main character. Director Oliver Hermanus says he wanted you not to have an easy empathy with the character, but to feel different reactions to him at different times, and in this he has succeeded brilliantly. Francois is in many ways monstrous, but he is also the victim of a macho culture where his true feelings have been savagely repressed all his life. You sense that Deon Lotz has a far broader humanity than his character, but this is precisely what enables him to project the character in such a way that we don't reject him out of hand. It's altogether a tough but fascinating film.