Wesens: a review by Ayden Kruger

  • 0
...
The film as a whole grapples with the concept of invasion. Set against the backdrop of the Americans attempting to invade the moon and the Russians apparently attempting to invade the world with communism, the arrival of the foreign object onto the farm seems dangerously intrusive.
...

To everyone who, like me, thought Afrikaans and sci-fi go together like oil and water, rest assured that Wesens (2020) is the beautiful emulsification of the two, an ointment that leaves the skin tingling. Written and directed by Derick Muller, Wesens will have you disconcerted and curious from the first second to the last.

With the movie set in 1967, four South African Republic Intelligence agents visit a farm in the Karoo to try and determine the origins of an unidentified object that landed there a few days before. They constantly film and record the events, intent on solving the puzzle. As they learn more about the object, any attempts to rationalise the queer incidents that follow fall short, and the agents get sucked deeper and deeper into a profound mystery.

Within the opening scene, Muller’s clever dialogue already captures the underlying currents of the ’60s very well: the topics, the language, the mentality. The film as a whole grapples with the concept of invasion. Set against the backdrop of the Americans attempting to invade the moon and the Russians apparently attempting to invade the world with communism, the arrival of the foreign object onto the farm seems dangerously intrusive. As the agents try to decipher the nature and origins of the object, the power it possesses starts invading their ideologies, rationality and prejudices. Viewers are given the voyeuristic experience of the characters’ different reactions to that which they do not understand: some react with violence and others with fear, fascination or reverence. This film asks whether it is humanly possible to learn to coexist with what is foreign to us, instead of conquering and changing it.

...
In this film, I wasn’t the viewer of a spectacle, but rather the participant of a quest for answers.
...

Wesens dodged the usual mistakes often made by Afrikaans or sci-fi films: unlike most Afrikaans films, it doesn’t answer all the dramatic questions within the first 15 minutes; unlike most sci-fi films, it isn’t crammed with so much CGI that your eyes glaze over. In this film, I wasn’t the viewer of a spectacle, but rather the participant of a quest for answers. With such uncanny events placed in such a realistic setting, the lack of elaborate CGI somehow makes the viewing experience much less safe. Thanks to the stellar performances of the actors and clever directing from Muller, no elaborate CGI was needed to create a surreal atmosphere.

I was astounded by the simplicity of the film: the raw expanse of the Karoo setting, the purity of the acting, the meticulous nature of the directing. This simplicity highlights the skill of the creators, because when something is simple, every element has to be exceptional in order to pull it off. The film boasts some amazing talent – both established and upcoming – with actors like Pietie Beyers (weapons engineer Pieter Kuyper Albertyn), Morné Visser (Major Martinus Viljoen), Albert Maritz (farmer Sakkie Haarhoff), Conradie van Heerden (junior chemical engineer Johan Conradie) and Randy Januarie (Kaang).

...
I was astounded by the simplicity of the film.
...

The cinematography matched the overall atmosphere of the film: gritty, raw and eerily immersive. Unlike most home footage-style films, this one won’t leave you slightly nauseous due to shaky handheld cameras. The cinematographers, Muller and Tom Purcell, were clever enough to shoot the film using tripods and gimbals. By having the events filmed with more than one camera, they had the opportunity to cut between shots regularly for gripping viewpoints of the uncanny events. No amateur home video footage here – we have captivating, enthralling material that makes you feel uneasily close to the action.

The uncanny atmosphere of the film is juxtaposed with chirpy Afrikaanse treffers of the ’60s, which further deepens the sense that something is off. I also think it comments on the inherent Afrikaner tendency to smear sweet decencies over everything conflicting and messy.

In terms of narrative arc, this film is stellar. I was right there with the characters, searching, groping, trying to make sense of this horrifically beautiful event that unfolds at the perfect pace – every new discovery comes at exactly the right moment. Although the film is presented as spontaneously shot handheld footage, it still contains the structure needed to create an impactful feature film. We have a relatable, flawed protagonist, a powerful antagonist, constant action, plot development and stakes that are raised higher and higher and higher until you’re left teetering on the edge of a cliff, terrified and enthralled.

So, to conclude: the concept? Inspired. The skill? Impressive. My verdict? Go watch it.

4,5/5

See also:

Wesens: R15 000 in prizes to be won

An analysis of Wesens (2020) by Gareth H Green

Wesens: “Wie was eerste hier?”

Wesens, an analysis by Jessica Smith

  • 0

Reageer

Jou e-posadres sal nie gepubliseer word nie. Kommentaar is onderhewig aan moderering.


 

Top