Provocative South African drama exploring the extent to which self-hatred and sexual denial can inflict damage on the life of a middle-aged man. 40-something Francois (Deon Lotz) lives a normal family life in Bloemfontein, South Africa. A devoted husband and father to two daughters, he is wholly unprepared for the tornado that knocks him off his feet when he meets beautiful 23-year-old Christian (Charlie Keegan), the son of a long-estranged friend. His infatuation leads him to rash actions that threaten to tear apart his entire existence and negate any chance of future happiness.
This is a South African story about a middle aged, family man Francois (Deon Lotz). He has a wife and two daughters and a successful lumber firm, at one of his daughter's weddings he is reunited with an old friend and business acquaintance who has brought his 23 year old son along. This is Christian (Charlie Keegan -`The Sinking of the Laconia') and he has charm, wit and matinee idol good looks `to die for'.
The thin veneer of familial bliss is soon seen to be cracking with casual racism, homophobia, an unfaithful wife and children who lie. Also daddy isn't exactly what he seems to be as he goes to bear type all men swingers groups. Needles to say he is not gay, but he soon becomes smitten with Christian. But Christian lives in Cape Town and Francois is in Bloemfontein which is a fair old drive. Undeterred he invents an excuse to go to Cape Town where he will orchestrate a meeting to go to the next level. Well as Oscar Wilde famously said, `there is only one thing worse than unrequited love.....and that is when it is requited'.
Beauty or `Skoonheid' to give it its original title is an art house film in many ways. It is both cleverly and artistically shot, the acting is outstanding and the music is understated but works almost subliminally. The pace will be a bit slow for some, but that reflects the narrative which is hardly planned from the players perspective either.
There are some bedroom action bits but not in the least frequent but there are some scenes that will be upsetting to some, this is most definitely not a feel good movie. It was South Africa's best foreign language film entry to the 84th Academy awards, so by all accounts there is a lot to merit attention here. I found it slow, brooding and initially unsatisfying; however, on reflection this is a film that will stay with you. The only reason I felt a bit let down is it did not play out how I was expecting and that is in actual fact a very good thing, hence my rating. In Afrikaans and English with a run time of 105 minutes not your run of the mill film and more power to director Oliver Hermanus for that.
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.
watched this twice the 2nd time not intentionally with the young guy on the cover of the dvd would expect him to have a bigger role in the film. the main character in public is a business owner respectable family man but has secret meetings with other men for sexual encounters although they supposedly hate gays as well as non whites. his obsession for his friends young son is rather worrying but realistic. worth a watch but as times found the accent hard to understand