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Missionary Position Filmmaking

Missionary Position Filmmaking

by Sarah Dawson / 10.12.2009

Honestly, I really wanted to enjoy this film. I really did. For a long time I’ve been an ostensibly ironic rugby fan, (I even played it for as long as a small hetero blonde’s body could handle the beatings). And though I was not even ten years old, I remember that night in ’95 when my drunken parents paraded around the suburbs chanting celebratory “oles”, with fond nostalgia. I remember how it was important because of the rugby itself, but also because it meant something more, something big that I couldn’t yet work out.
I also happen to think that Eastwood is a decent director, and certainly a veritable master of classical filmmaking. He has the invisible cut and the unassuming camera sorted like Malema has populist rhetoric. But some buy it and some don’t.

Invictus is the perfect example of missionary position filmmaking. The choice of middle-aged couples on a Friday night when the kids have gone out. It was always going to be weird to watch Hollywood’s re-enactment of our shared history. And while Invictus is entertaining enough on that level, it is unlikely to induce much sweating or numbness in the extremities.

Luckily for the suburban schlebs out there, even in times like these when others consider modernism to be behind us, this type of filmmaking still does have a place. And that place is called the Oscars, and Invictus certainly has its nose in the air for one of those.

Team Talk

I’m not going to waste time outlining the plot for you. We all know it. And indeed it’s a great story. Ready made. So the question is, is it done justice?

My feeling is that no, it isn’t. And it’s not because it’s dishonest or exaggerated. Quite the opposite. It feels cursory and one-dimensional, and generally lacking in conviction. Even the rugby itself is quite half-hearted. The Springboks do rather look like one of the weirdest rugby teams ever assembled: like an ad hoc arrangement of some flabby barflies, a high school U16C team, some black guy, and Matt Damon. And the on-screen rugby is not much more exciting than you’d expect from such a mash-up.

Interestingly, World Cup hero Joel Stransky is played by Eastwood’s illegitimate son, Scott – offspring of an affair with an air hostess. I can say for sure that he’s not there because he’s talented.

Roli-hala-hala

Damon’s accent is not bad. Actually not bad at all. (He used the same voice coach as Leo Di Caprio in Blood Diamond). Mandela himself once said that Freeman (a friend of his) was the only man he’d like to see play the role of our ex-prez, and while Freeman fumbles Madiba’s middle name (which is now Roli-ha-la-ha-la, apparently), he does a pretty good job in the role. Overall the film is factually accurate and well executed. There’s very little wrong with the film, except that the implied intention of such a biopic is to shift things into hyperdrive, to concentrate reality, whereas Invictus just feels like so much less of an experience than the historical moment itself. It might be that my criticism has to do with a lack of distance. It’s hard to say.

Either way, the ’95 Rugby World Cup was in fact and in retrospect, a complex and beautifully difficult moment, and the film sacrifices engagement on this level for the cheap, heart-string moment of the black and white hand holding as they lift the golden cup in the glinting sunlight, accompanied by “The World In Union”.

15   7
RESPONSES (4)
  1. Andy says:

    Check at the make-up on Matt Damon’s shnoz that makes him look like Francois Pienaar. Classic

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  2. Katoozil says:

    You’re no fan!
    Go Bokke!!!!

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  3. charl says:

    “The choice of middle-aged couples on a Friday night when the kids have gone out.” What kak.

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  4. Mosibudi says:

    I found it difficult to watch and didn’t see it through to its conclusion. As a person with a reasonable grasp of the nuances of South African political history, I found that it glossed over several crucial elements – but ofcourse it was made for external (international) vieweres, who, with their cursory understanding, will probably conclude that Pienaar and Mandela were the protagonists of South Africa’s democratic transition. 5/ 10.

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