Beauty (‘Skoonheid’)

DRAMA; 1hr 39min (Afrikaans with subtitles, English)

STARRING: Deon Lotz, Charlie Keegan, Michelle Scott

Danger man: from left, Lotz and Keegan

Entrenched in his middle-class, middle-aged existence, Afrikaner lumber merchant François van Heerden (Lotz) appears to be on course to the safe harbour of old age. But François’s life is a lie: even as he goes through the motions of his arid marriage to the unsuspecting Elena (Scott), he sneaks furtive sex with men. He’s also newly infatuated with handsome young law student Christian (Keegan), the son of an old friend and plainly his potential undoing. 


Unsurprisingly, François is unhappy and isolated, and as writer-director Oliver Hermanus painstakingly shadows his sterile, voyeuristic days, there’s no doubting why. Denied an emotional fulfilment nakedly lacking in his animalistic sexual encounters, he’s clinging to the end of his rope. 


To worship at the altar of youth and beauty is to be human. To go there in closeted midlife is a pitiful and potentially ruinous course. Lotz does indeed go there, with disturbing honesty and an utter lack of vanity. His François is a repugnant man. But in his hunger and frustration, he’s an absolute tragic hero—absorbing, imperfect and uncomfortably true to life.