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‘Moffie’ review: The hell of being gay in the apartheid-era army




The Times has pledged to review theatrical film releases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since cinema is risky during this time, readers are reminded to follow health and safety guidelines such as sketched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials.

Apartheid South Africa was adept at suppressing hatred in its ruling white minority, and if anyone was gay then a literal crime, hate was conditioned to look inward, too. , like a self-choke. The key to the sanctioned barbarism that defined the regime was its enlistment of young white men in their ongoing border wars, a brutal shift to toxic hetero-virility portrayed with pressurized sensibility and artistic fear in the feature-length drama Oliver Hermanus. convincing Moffie, named after the Afrikaans homophobe. insult that followed anyone perceived as insufficiently masculine.

The story, adapted from a memoir-like novel by Andr Carl van der Merwe, takes place in 1981, when sweet-faced blond teenager Nicholas Van der Swart (Kai Luke Brummer) is about to start two. years of compulsory military service. in the South African Defense Forces, fueling a campaign on the northern border (now independent Namibia) firing at USSR-backed Angolans. The patriotic line was aimed at stopping communism; the reality was the defense of a racist state. And from the bumpy train ride to the spooky early days in uniform heightened by a square aspect ratio that acts like a vise on Nicholas’ point of view, and a squeak, plucked ropes mark like an upset stomach, these early scenes are a sequence loaded with ritual brutality. and dehumanization, devoid of any trace of basic training as a romantic shaper of sane discipline.

Kai Luke Brummer relaxes in a bar in the movie

Kai Luke Brummer in the movie Moffie.

(Daniel Rutland Manners / IFC Films)

They are young men reinforced by violent fanaticism. The craziest conscripts are already equipped with enough hatred to merrily hurl an invective at a black man who is waiting on a station platform; at camp, they in turn are abused into a more systematic compliance with sour machismo by growling Sgt. Brand (a thrilling Hilton Pelser), determined to rid his ranks of all homosexuality. (One would imagine that this version of a well-honed military archetype wouldn’t even respect the gesture of my weapon in the song Marine made famous in Full Metal Jacket could lead to the wrong kind of fun.)

The atmosphere readily breeds a macho police. For Nicholas, being gay means being hyper-conscious, a survival-conscious observer, astute enough to deflect any aggressive speech that becomes threatening. Although the farewell gift of a porn magazine from her caring father at first seemed insane, at the right time, it proves to be useful as a badge of righteousness. But Nicholas played with Brummer’s magnetic reserve also recognizes a related partner in cover-up when he sees one, allowing friendly exchanges with fellow rookie Dylan Stassen (Ryan de Villiers) to become unspoken desire and watchful attention. That’s all it can become, too, given the punishment inflicted not only in front of the recruits on those who have been caught for homosexual acts, but also rumors of a horrific place some are being sent for treatment. additional.

Hermanus, as a black, queer South African, is not about to paint Nicholas’ predicament as true victims of apartheids. But the emotional intelligence he instills in Moffie throughout his inevitable march to the front line nonetheless feels personal and empathically curious about the kind of male indoctrination that fuels oppression through rituals of violence and violence. criminalization of identity. This resonates especially in the brilliantly shot flashback scenes dramatizing a Nicholas recollection of a pool incident in which his father memorable figure and how distracting curiosity becomes the stuff of constant, debilitating shame.

Along with the many fine performances and aforementioned box-framing by Jamie Ramsays, coolly evocative cinematography, an always refreshing aesthetic choice that rewards attention to close-ups, bodies and landscapes, Hermanus’ use of different styles of music is also enriching, the mixture of Braam du Toits’ score with recordings (from classical to opera to disco) which atmosphericly complement the emotional timeline. The film’s closing after an enigmatic and melancholy beach scene is a haunting cover of Rodriguez’s song and the unexpected apartheid-era hymn Sugar Man as a solemn coda on who we are after learning not only to kill others, but something in us.


In Afrikaans and English with English subtitles


Execution time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Playing: Starts April 9, Laemmle Royal, West LA; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena; Laemmle Noho 7, North Hollywood; also available in digital and VOD

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