After a family dinner one evening, 18-year-old Nicholas (Kai Luke Brummer) slips out of the house and sprints into the distance, swallowed by darkness. It’s a striking image that appears early in South African writer-director Oliver Hermanus’s brilliant, brutal fourth feature, a historical drama about the young white men who were conscripted and trained to defend the apartheid regime in the early 1980s. This prologue sets up Hermanus’s army-bound protagonist as a solitary figure whose differences, however well-hidden, will isolate him from his comrades. Composer Braam du Toit’s tense, dissonant string-led score gives a further sense of an internal storm brewing.
Moffie, the film’s title, translates as a derogatory gay slur, Afrikaans for “faggot”. An undeniable homoerotic charge runs through scenes set in army barracks, with glistening male bodies lavishly observed and bringing to mind the graceful legionnaires in Claire Denis’s 1999 film Beau Travail. The quiet, closeted Nicholas finds himself drawn to new recruit and provocateur Stassen (Ryan de Villiers), but Hermanus treats any love story as subtext. In doing so, he’s able to turn his attention to the visceral sadism of the South African National Defence Force, critiquing the emotional and physical toll of such a toxic regime.
Moffie is available to stream on Curzon Home Cinema
Source: The Guardian