Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Critic’s-Eye View: “Wonderlus”

The new Afrikaans film Wonderlus, by Johan Cronje, opened this past weekend. I’ve collected the reviews that I could find, so that readers can get an idea of the various responses to it in the South African press.

Read The Back Row’s review of Wonderlus here.

On his RSG film-reviewing slot, Leon van Nierop awarded the film nine stars out of ten, and declared that

Like Johnny is nie dood nie, it takes Afrikaans film to places it’s never been. It experiments with style, dialogue, juxtaposition of time periods, and brutal frankness like few other Afrikaans films. … It is one of the best Afrikaans movies ever, because it moves radically away from the pattern of other Afrikaans movies, especially comedies. People talk like real people, the camera moves around freely, and there are jumps in time to give context and perspective to the relationships and decisions of the characters. As far as direction, performance, the script, and camerawork are concerned, it is excellent.

Graye Morkel reviewed Wonderlus for Channel24, awarding it four stars out of five, and writing that it

takes a brave look at the conversations and doubts young South Africans have about love and relationships. … [The dialogue] felt real and authentic. But be warned, it might not sit well with your average Afrikaans tannie. Swear words and phrases like “tiete is ons troosprys” slip into almost every conversation. … The love and party scenes are uninhibited and not for a conservative audience. … The camerawork is exceptional.

Van Nierop also reviewed Wonderlus for his Silwerskerm column in the Rapport, awarding it four stars out of five, 

The naturalistic dialogue, sober direction, and a unique style by Johan Cronje knocks the viewer out. He uses an existential stream-of-thought technique to convey his message. The movie is experimental, funny, dramatic, and sorrowful, and plays tricks on your soul. … There are no gay stereotypes, no pedantic messages full of exclamation marks. Also no safe jokes or pitiful situations because the writer was too lazy to think up clever comedy. It’s life as a hand-grenade. … It is actually a piece of movie-philosophy, not a superficial barrel of laughs.

Reney Warrington reviewed the film for the Afrikaans culture site LitNet, warning that a few “tannies” will be upset by it.

Director John Cronje made brave choices … The dialogue surprises you. It’s how Afrikaans-speaking people really talk; it’s on topics that people really fight over. … Cronje doesn’t stay on the safe side like, say, Vuil wasgoed. … The camerawork is exceptional 90% of the time. … When you watch the film, it feels as though the director gave the actors a certain freedom to relax and simply to chat. I’m think of the scene by the dam where the waitress and Pieter sit and talk. It doesn’t feel hurried; it doesn’t feel as though each shot was meticulously planned and orchestrated to fit in with the budget and timeline. It lends a relaxed but engaging quality to the film.

The American reviewer Mike Massie posted a negative review of the film on his blog, Gone With the Twins, awarding it two stars out of ten.

The setup is conspicuously similar to The Hangover, except that where there should be obvious comedy, there is instead a distinct melancholy, almost as if the inherently silly circumstances are meant to depict a sad realism. … Another problem arises with the structuring of the picture. It’s supposed to be a bit of a mystery, slowly resolved through flashbacks. But the decision to cut back and forth abruptly between time periods … makes things quizzically difficult to sort out. … Sadly, it hardly matters; as the film winds down to its close, with characters hooking up, breaking up, saying embarrassing or emotional things while outrageously drunk, and arguing incessantly, Wonderlus becomes just another generic relationship yarn, offering nothing new to a tired formula. Plus, it’s overlong, it’s unfittingly dour, and it trails off irresolutely, as if desperately hoping to be a scholarly piece that critics will muse over in the years to come.

Let me know of any other responses to the film that I can include here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Enter your unrestrained arguments here