Saturday, July 21, 2007


CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY (1995, South Africa / USA, Darrell Roodt, Ronald Harwood / Joshua Sinclair screenplay from Alan Paton novel)
He is, I think, the only truly good man I’ve ever met.
Then why, I wonder, does God not show him any mercy?

The portrait of a gentle Zulu man – an Anglican priest – who travels from a rural village to find his son, his sister and his brother in Johannesburg, encountering the hard ways of the world and the harder ways of a nation on the verge of apartheid. The Boston Herald calls the film “electrifying,” but in fact the cry of the title is one of mourning rather than rage: the grand stillness of the African landscape photography and the quiet dignity of the central character inform the whole. The director doesn’t shape the story to dramatic climaxes, he elicits strong but understated performances, his soundtrack is curiously muted: he foregrounds a reflective orchestral score while minimizing, say, the bustle of a city or the response of a courtroom to the verdict in a murder trial. The most compelling journey here may be that of a racist landowner confronted by the written legacy of his murdered son; “He said that we taught him nothing about the country in which he lived. He said that we called ourselves Christians, but we were indifferent to the sufferings of Christians. He said that when we say we are Christian, what we mean is that we are white.”


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