Moffie (2019)

Moffie (2019)
  • 709
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release year: 2019 ()
  • Running time: 99 min
  • Original Title: Moffie
  • Voted: 709

Nicholas has long known he is different, that there is something shameful and unacceptable in him that must stay hidden, denied even. But South Africa's minority government are embroiled in conflict at the Angolian border and all white young men over 16 must serve two years of compulsory military service to defend the Apartheid regime and its culture of toxic racist machismo. The 'black danger' is the real and present threat; what is wrong with Nicholas and others like him can be rooted out, treated and cured like a cancer. But just when fear pushes Nicholas to accept unspeakable horrors in the hopes of staying invisible, a tender relationship with another recruit becomes as dangerous for them both as any enemy fire.

1Matt AshwellYoung Nicholas
2Kai Luke BrummerNicholas Van der Swart
3Ryan de VilliersDylan Stassen
4Hilton PelserSergeant Brand
  • Harrowing and Gripping by 8

    I saw this film at the Glasgow Film Festival. The film is beautifully shot and tells the gripping tale of 16 year old Nicholas's two year of conscripted service in 1980's South African army. At the same time Nicholas is coming to terms with his sexuality. The film pulls no punches in setting out Nicholas's initial experiences. The acting by all concerned is very good and the film moves along at a reasonable pace. My only criticism is that the ending is a bit dragged out but overall that is minor as the film is a very good watch.

  • an unfinished review by 9

    As extraordinary and as hauntingly beautiful as Skoonheid (Oliver Hermanus's second film) was, I could only recommend it to die-hard cinephiles, and still then I included a warning. It all builds up to a crushing scene which traumatised this rather thick-skinned reviewer. It attests to the power of the film. Moffie, even more extraordinary and more hauntingly beautiful than Skoonheid, is not Skoonheid. Everyone should see it. No warning necessary.

    The first few frames - in 4:3 format, flawlessly colour-treated and styled, shot on a perfect location - immediately places you in what is unmistakably the 80s, in apartheid South Africa. Everything is beautiful though, from the brooding landscapes, the wind in the grass, the dreamy lighting, to the underwater shots and the young men. The beauty does not, however, lull you into a false sense of safety, because as the cello music builds from a whimper to a scream, you know what lies underneath the water's surface. You fully understand the threat posed to this gentle boy. So, you wait for it to come tumbling down. Whether it does or not, I will not say.

    Along the way, there are brutal scenes of war, anger, toxic masculinity and blind nationalism. There are also tender moments of sharing a sleeping bag, singing "Sugarman" and a desperate wink when words fail. It is these tender moments that make the brutal moments more bearable, but also so much more brutal.

    I am leaving this review unfinished, for if I describe the wordless, aching scene between Brand and Nicholas, a scene that represents the brilliance of this film, I will give away too much and spoil it for you. The only other thing I will say, is that Skoonheid dealt with repressing the desire and anger of one man. Moffie deals with repressing and brutalising a whole generation.

  • Not bad - but possibly the sweariest film I've ever seen by 8

    'Moffie' is one of those films where a boy joins the military, goes through the random humiliations of basic training and Becomes A Man.

    Conscripted into the South African military during the dying days of the apartheid era, Nick Van der Swart (Kai Luke Brummer) arrives at a training camp run by sadistic officers whose vocabulary appears to consist mainly of the word 'f***' (with an occasional 'c***' tossed in for variety). The next several months feature route marches, bullying in the barracks and the eating of vomit. There is also a tentative, platonic homosexual relationship with fellow recruit Stassen (Ryan de Villiers) - very dangerous as homosexuality is illegal. And always in the future lurks a posting to fight communist rebels on the border with Angola.

    While the basic premise is not, of course, new, what makes this film different are the South African setting and the homosexual element (which, contrary to some publicity, is merely a part of the story rather than being the whole). As Nick, Brummer is a heartthrob in the making and I also found Matthew Vey, who plays Nick's cynical friend Michael, appealing. Hilton Pelser as the sergeant must have needed throat sweets to cope with all the bellowing he is required to do, but is also given a moment of awkward vulnerabilty. It might, perhaps, have been nice if de Villiers was given more to play with as regards his character; for such a pivotal role Stassen is curiously one-note, reduced pretty much to noble suffering. But that is not a major difficulty; this film is well worth watching. Seen at the London Film Festival 2019.

  • Iffy Moffie by 5

    I'd read the book which is atmospheric and weirdly compelling, if also slight and ultimately unsatisfying. But books with sparse narratives often make the best films (eg. Bridges of Madison County) so I was ready to give Moffie another go. The film is also atmospheric and offers some confronting insights into the apartheid years and South African army culture. Beyond that, it is less compelling than the book, and even more unsatisfying. There's a fatal lack of narrative drive and no real attempt to flesh out key characters - acutely observed in the book, but only roughly sketched in the film. Our guide through two years of national service is Nicholas van der Swart, a sensitive young man, struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality and experiencing the first pangs of serious attraction. In the novel both his inner and outward struggle is moving and eventually devastating. But on film Nicholas appears frustratingly passive and considerably less heroic. Kai Luke Brummer makes an attractive Nick, but the role is almost entirely reactive, which makes for a somewhat lame hero. Perhaps Moffie is the film that that book deserved - faithful and true. But it still feels like a missed opportunity.

  • Being different under Apartheid in South Africa by 6

    South African director Oliver Hermanus' film Moffie is a beautifully shot period piece depicting the experiences of a young conscript during his military service. The movie certainly has wonderful elements in terms of cinematography, aesthetics, musical choices or intensity of the topic and themes. The overarching theme of the movie is not evolving around race but sexual oppression at a time when being gay in Apartheid South Africa meant living the life of an outcast and criminal. Hence the title Moffie, an Afrikaan derogatory slang word for a gay person.

    It is a coming-of-age story, centered around formative moments in the life of a sensitive young gay man, Nicholas, as he enters compulsory military service in 1981. There, he endures endless humiliation and is exposed to daily brutality and bullying that leaves us deeply unsettled. We see the world through Nicholas' eyes and even though he remains mainly a distant observer, we witness his tortured psyche and wished for him to be at a different place - at a different time when he is allowed to love without living in fear.

    The film comes with an intriguing new angle, it's watch is a tough one but the powerful story makes it all worthwhile.

1Jamie Ramsaycinematographer
2Braam du Toitcomposer
3Oliver Hermanusdirector
4Alain Dessauvageeditor
5Eric Abrahamproducer
6Jack Sideywriter