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Platteland - Opening Image

Hel Op Die Platteland

by Kavish Chetty / 24.11.2011

It’s difficult to resist the histrionic urging of a film like this. It dangles its seductive lameness before you. It architects the mise-en-scène for a thorough critical savaging, which spares no expletive or low-slung metaphor in its bitchy pursuits. The exercise of this savaging is a non-catharsis. I tried. What I’m left idly puzzling over in the aftermath of that aggression is this: are the directors and producers of this film – and all films like it – aware of its phantasmagorical strangeness? Platteland is a self-contained, cloistered Bloemfontein countryside dream: a world run amok with someone else’s idea of normal. I may have to reach for that eight year-old Bellville interrogative to counter this properly – “kan jy jou idee van normal by jou gat opdruk – kan jy?”

Let allow me allow you a glimpse through the screen, of a world that waits on the other side; another side, which whole consuming populations swallow and enjoy. Within the first five minutes of this film, you’ll see a young woman awake in her farmhouse bedroom, clutching her bible amidst her white duvets, mailing prayers to god for a boyfriend. Then – and I wish I had the linguistic skill to render the unexpectedness, the juxtapositional shock of this development – she’s suddenly out on a verdant cliff edge, arms thrown up to the heavens, belting out a Celine Dion tribute; or singing the same while feeding a baby goat from a milk bottle. I heard the voice, I saw goat. The voice announced itself in a gurgling satanic register: “I am the soul and spirit of everything unholy in this world and I am adored by millions.” I stifled a yawn that threatened to split my jaw apart. I found myself in “Hel op die Platteland.”

Platteland - Platteland All Stars

What we have here is a vanity project for best-selling Afrikaans musicians; an action-musical or musical-thriller, a narrative threaded together with kookwater-treffers. It reaches its climax of self-satirising laughability very early on. Career racist Steve Hofmeyr sings “ek is baas van die plaas en ek maak groot geraas.” You can search as thoroughly as you like for irony – maybe an unintended grin or a slip of the tongue – but this is despairingly the genuine article. I’d liken the experience of watching this film to a pot high gone wrong. You’re laughing uproariously, full-throatedly; your guts hurt. Then the cogito, your rational mind, comes in to break up the party and asks you why you’re laughing – nothing’s actually funny here. That’s when you slip into the shit-abyss. The precise moment of paranoia for me hit about mid-way through. Thereafter, I was bored, disheartened; not even anthropological arrogance makes this film worth while. Not even the cheap reactionary feeling that by disliking this, you belong to some last civilised regiment of an epoch torn asunder by its contradiction and triteness.

The narrative seethes with that familiar anxiety of farm murder, but they function here almost politically-evacuated; mere grist. Riana is the boyfriend-wishing broad of the Celine Dion tribute mentioned above. She lives with her younger brother on a cattle farm in the Free State. Their parents were murdered. “The Hof” plays local town bad-ass Mike Ferreira and he’s – as if I needed to remind you – the “baas van die plaas”. He’s loved as a kind of philanthropic figure throughout the community, but secretly, using his dirty connections, he’s been masterminding the mass-scale closure of local farms because he’s discovered their land is glutted with diamonds. Riana’s farm is the latest target he has in mind. Mike also runs a security company called Cowboy Security and hence has a battalion of cock-heavy goons at his disposal. When Riana realises that Mike is out to get her, she puts out an advert in Farmer’s Weekly for a foreman and bodyguard: a man to ward the wolves from the door, but also subconsciously, to give her the right royal rogering she’s clearly lusting for so badly.

Platteland - Lianie May

The film is mostly just prologue for a stand-off between Riana’s unlikely knight-in-shining-tinfoil (Bok van Blerk) and Mike Ferreira. The problem is the film takes a brisk two hours to get there. Thankfully, it’s buoyed up by some vital quotations en route. My favourite is when Riana’s out in the field after a long day of farm-labour with a prospective foreman; a mutual love interest appears to be taking root between them. In a sighing pause full of romantic longing, the foreman takes his hat off his bald head and stares deeply into her eyes. He says, his voice nearly choked up with nationalism and pride, “It’s not everyday one meets a woman tough enough to run a farm by herself” – a gentle delay, a smile, then – “It makes me proud to be Afrikaans.” The few journalists in attendance at the screening all let out a mighty whoosh of laughter at the ridiculous staging of this whole thing, the point where the film must aim to tug so nostalgically at the hearts of its supposed audience.

I suspect most of the film was built around that single quip – although, it doesn’t show up in the weak female portrayals. In one electric scene set in a strip-club, Mike Ferreira’s son grabs a stripper and throws her on the floor, threatens to smack her in the face and calls her “my property”. After this de-dignifying display he jumps on stage and – to a soundtrack of unmistakable Free-State synthesizers – sings a lekker treffer. The stripper is presumably so amazed by his moves and his body that she immediately forgives him for all the gender violence and hops up on stage joining him in the pelvis-thrusts and poses of an embarrassing 80s-esque dance: how they still get down in the Platteland. That’s Bloemfontein feminism for you, friends and neighbours!

Platteland - Daddy Issues

Elsewhere, the film gracelessly lurches on – corny, shameless, embarrassing and all shot through with incongruous moments of musical self-indulgence. Any reason appears sufficient for a song: milking a goat, why not? Bakkie broke down on the highway? It’s liedjie-time. Boyfriend sent you a text message saying “sweet dreams?” Let’s go crazy. A pot-boiled romantic sub-plot – jammed up with the cliché of having its lovers flung on opposite sides of the familial battle lines – is going on too. The camera keeps lingering on the face of the boyfriend in this romance, presumably to show how caught up in love he is. Have you ever seen a guy forcibly trying to contort his features into an expression of true love? He stares up into the clouds, lips half-apart, eyelids dimmed: he looks like he’s taking the best, longest, most cathartic piss of his life and is loving every second of it.

Anyone who says that “this is a musical, bru, so it’s supposed to be lark this”, needs to promptly seek out the nearest kite and proceed to fly it. You always encounter this thinking, this “there’s a heritage here and artists should regularly prostrate themselves before its shrine.” Please. You don’t get an historical pardon just because your present absurdity has a long lineage in the past.

Platteland - Sing Along

Finally, Platteland cannot be recommended. I ponder again the strange logic which created this film – a cash-magnet aimed at a very particular gang of tasteless drones. Much like Getroud Met Rugby. It invites us to step behind the curtain, into the illusory fantasyland. But the film is really made of a charmless lunacy. It falls short of the only redemptive possibility it had going for it: it’s not shit enough to be ironic. To scorch this thing with criticism is a waste of time, but I’ll add one final insult. This film sucks enough to briefly erase your convictions in social change. It’s like, yeah, okay maybe one day we’ll put an end to the huge asymmetries in the distribution of wealth and suffering in this world; one day we might cure prejudice. But this moron cinema and its gape-mouthed adorers are going to survive well beyond that; this is here with us unto the apocalypse. Give me Skoonheid; give me Anton Kannemeyer or Conrad Botes; stuur my hemel toe, but fuck it isn’t op die Platteland.

*Platteland releases nationwide on Friday 25 November 2011.

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RESPONSES (38)
  1. cnut says:

    Chetty you try far too hard to be Gonzo and anti-Dutchman… almost nobody of any race will read past your subjective over-writing in the first paragraph let alone a few stanza’s down… reviewing films is not for you… perhaps here lies your forte’ ek se…

    http://www.quarterbunnybatrometer.co.za

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  2. Po-po says:

    cnut take your bladdy ignorance elsewhere. We may have agreed yesterday but today you’re showing your doucheness again. Chetty’s film reviews rule! He’s producing some of the finest criticism on local film in South Africa right now. Do yourself a favour and do some research before you come up in here all high and mighty. Start here:

    http://www.mahala.co.za/?s=kavish+chetty

    Reviewing films is definitely for Kavish Chetty!

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Shitty Chetty Bang Bang

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  4. Mirage says:

    Well, I see that the Mahala comments are starting out with an intellectual bang with morning…

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  5. Andy says:

    sorry you all may notice that this is a different draft to the one cnut and Po-Po commented on. I published Kavish’s 1st draft, this one’s a lot more sanguine and restrained…

    just so you know.

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  6. Monte Cristo says:

    Somewhere, a bridge is missing its trolls. Chetty, you good man, keep doing what you’re doing.

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  7. iboota says:

    I enjoyed this review… if only the movie makers could have really played up that irony and comedy into the movie… it could actually be worth while sitting through (for a cheap laugh).
    Maybe if Schuster made the movie, it would have some credibility in absurdness. But as it stands, it is just a sad commentary of the lack of respect these movie makers have for the public intelligence. I would support the Protection of Information Act if it means the governant will clasify this movie as state secret, just incase some foreign power watch it and thinks that all South Africans are this stupid and gullable.

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  8. iboota says:

    I enjoyed this review… if only the movie makers could have really played up that irony and comedy into the movie… it could actually be worth while sitting through (for a cheap laugh).
    Maybe if Schuster made the movie, it would have some cre…dibility in absurdness. But as it stands, it is just a sad commentary of the lack of respect these movie makers have for the public intelligence. I would support the Protection of Information Act if it means the governant will clasify this movie as state secret, just incase some foreign power watch it and thinks that all South Africans are this stupid and gullable.

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  9. ThatAwkwardMoment says:

    “What we have here is a vanity project for best-selling Afrikaans musicians; an action-musical or musical-thriller, a narrative threaded together with kookwater-” Chetty is the truth LOL

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  10. Chris says:

    So fucking tired of this cnut guy.
    Please just fuck off.
    No one likes you.

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  11. creepy steve says:

    definite smile value here

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Jissis man, nou’s ek eers lus om die fokken fliek te sien.

    (Reading your review is almost like reading the book and then wanting to see the movie just to see if it lives up to the book. )

    Kannie waggie!

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  13. creepy steve says:

    does any one remeber a budget tv series “binnelanders”? it replaced “die complex” which was awesome

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  14. creepy steve says:

    “Bakkie broke down on the highway? It’s liedjie-time” once i saw a dutchman in a bakkie on west street, with the darkies riding on the the back and his dog on the front seat , singing along to foreigner “i want to know what love is” crying, china crying

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  15. Anonymous says:

    This review reads like someone walking into a curry house and then bitching because they don’t like curry.

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  16. Jirrith says:

    Heavenly review. Can’t wait not to see the movie! Thank you!!

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  17. cnut says:

    The trailer is so comprehensive even any self-righteous Mahala ‘writer’ should be able to ‘get it’… if you’re not into Afrikaans-Sokkie-Musicals with a smattering of gratuitous ‘Sterre’ then DO NOT watch it!

    See… 3.7 seconds of my time with that synopsis in a nutshell…

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  18. cnut says:

    I see someone ‘aborted’ the first review and replaced it with something far removed… will the real Mr Chetty please stand-up.

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  19. Rare Steak says:

    Hi cnut. You need to fuck right off. You’re vacuous, non-contributory and anonymous, with dull opinions. You’re a time-waster and a troll. Consider that your unofficial invitation to fuck off elsewhere.

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  20. Urk says:

    give me Anton Kannemeyer or Conrad Botes

    Fuck yes. Moenie hulle vergewe nie, maar fok weet ons is nie almal so nie.

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  21. cnut says:

    Looking a bit ‘blue’ in the face there BeefCurtain, ‘well done’ on the exceptional contribution to the article forensics, ‘rare’ly have I seen such ‘matured’ use of the English language…

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  22. StereoTheist says:

    agreed. this movie s fucking ridiculous.

    what’s so bad about bloem that you had to mention it twice though?

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  23. Kian says:

    I´m Afrikaans and gay and love indian cock but honestly mr. Chetty your racism pisses me off.

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  24. John says:

    Wow, it’s time to get a sense of humour mate. God, the glass must always be half empty your end?
    Aside from your racist comments, which I can only assume come from a terrible childhood and a resulting jealously for those who have achieved something, I’d say learn to smile and see the lighter side of things.
    It’s a musical. Enough said. It’s a story. Suspend your disbelief. Do you watch Transformers and flourish at the idea of robots attacking the world?
    If you don’t like it, don’t see it. But to sit and gripe about how it’s not BLACK enough for you…God, MOVE ON

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  25. wutinni says:

    god dank, dis so mooi geskryf ek wil sommer my sakke pak en Bloem toe trek. You write beautifully of this land I know too well and yet don’t get at all. I really want to go watch this film now, but purely out of masochistic splendour

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  26. Anonymous says:

    I’m sure there MIGHT be something else your good at my friend….but movie-critic is not your forte!!! You’r much too narrow-minded and short-sighted for that!! Take yourself away and do us a favour…pleezzzzzzzzzze!!!!

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  27. Alex says:

    Jislaaik I’d rather watch the damn movie than read beyond the opening paragraph of this diatribe. What an exhaustive waste of words.

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  28. Anonymous says:

    nice review… except for the bloem bashing… where does the hof come from anyway?

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  29. Africa is a Country says:

    Steve Hofmeyr is a “career racist.” Ouch.

    All jokes aside, there’s something else here about identity making. One of the defining characteristics of white Afrikaner identity or Afrikaans identity politics before 1994 was that it was tied to the state and Nasionale Pers (now conveniently named News24). Since the end of the Apartheid, those elites have lost their hold on that process, especially after 1999 and since then. Popular figures like Hofmeyr and Van Blerk, along with wingnuts like Dan Roodt, and “civil society” organizations (really race-based lobby groups) like Afriforum and Solidarity have taken that space. Of course this is tied to consumption. Sometimes it works like with “De la Rey”. Other times it doesn’t. “Platteland.” Or we don’t know yet if it does. I’d be interested to hear Chetty on that.

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  30. janine says:

    Was die beste movie !!!!!

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  31. Eddie Knox From Caution with the Devil says:

    I read until “It architects the mise-en-scène for a thorough critical savaging, which spares no expletive or low-slung metaphor in its bitchy pursuits.” and released this is gonna be a shit article.

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  32. silverstone says:

    It is a white thing that you cannot understand. It is called western culture which is associated with the word civilization. Dont let it worry you. It was not made for you and you were not invited.do you really think your comments are taken seriuosly by anyone that matters?

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  33. silverstone says:

    New to this sit. Who the hell is kavish chetty? Sounds as if IT should rather be commenting on bangra movies. Strange that someone would sit down and waste 10 good minutes to write such crap. As i said. Does it think it’s opinion matters to the tergetcaudience of the movie?

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  34. Lourens says:

    Mr Chetty, that is way the movie must made in Afrikaans and not in english!!! Please leave your bullshit stories for bollywood movies….

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  35. alta says:

    The movie platterland is great .best movie I have see in a long time.but I have I problem give me a site where I can go and downloud the song 1968 bakkie.please

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  38. Anonymous says:

    Bitch all you want, it’s a crap movie. And I’m not saying that cos I’m racist, cos there’s plenty of good Afrikaans movies, I’m saying it cos they sing incessantly and look like idiots.

    Get real.

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