Twenty-eight years after it wowed TV viewers, the big screen incarnation of Ballade Vir 'n Enkeling is here at last and it's been well worth the wait, gloriously celebrating South African storytelling and story-making at its best.
It's a story that captured the hearts of many South Africans during its life on TV and can now add a legion of new fans to its following, introducing a new generation to the ultimate romance of a love triangle that is guaranteed to break your heart.
It's a nostalgic local treasure and under the gifted and sensitive direction of Quentin Krog, writer Leon van Nierop's story vividly bursts to life with passionate performances, magnificently captured by cinematographer Tom Marais and scored by Benjamin Willem, and well-paced by editor CA van Aswegen.
William's score, in particular, captures the heartbeat of the story, perfectly underscoring the emotional and tearful journey.
Disappearance of a popular writer
The story centres on a journalist Carina Human (Donnalee Roberts), who reveals the truth behind the disappearance of a popular writer Jacques Rynhard (Armand Aucamp). At first, being instructed to write a story about the disappearance of this writer had seemed like a mundane, almost boring, assignment. But then the search started taking several twists and turns and the story started unfolding as one of the biggest of her career.
Roberts's angelic beauty and heartfelt performance perfectly embodies a young woman in search of a truth that ultimately sets her free, with Aucamp in top form as the romantic loner whose troubled past shines a bright light on his mysterious life.
Equally brilliant is Jacques Bessenger as Jacques Rynard's best friend since their school days, well supported by Zak Hendriks as an editor from hell - a typical selfish chauvinist who uses and abuses women (and other people) to gain success in life; Dorette Potgieter as a publisher who discovers new, young and up-and-coming writers and trains them - usually in bed - according to her tastes and needs; and Helene Lombard as Rynhard's mother, a woman imprisoned by conventions.
Potent inner journey
The story of Ballade Vir 'n Enkeling is a terrific thriller; the mystery of a famous writer's disappearance and secretive life are gradually revealed through a potent inner journey, leading to its haunting resolution.
This introduces us to the characters as teenagers, with first-rate performances from Edwin van der Walt as a troubled and enigmatic young Rynhard, Christia Visser as Human, Luan Jacobs as the lovesick Bessenger, and Miles Petzer as a young criminal who bullies Rynhard in a reform school in Denneberg.
If there's one reason to see Ballade Vir 'n Enkeling, besides its high production value and great script, it's for its performances, allowing the characters to crawl deep into our hearts.
For Van Nierop, the film is about "a man who trusted too easily and who had allowed the wrong people to enter his life and for which he eventually had to face the consequences", and "about a liberal loner in search of freedom".
Van Nierop has succeeded on both accounts, delivering a story that is resonant and serves as a reminder of how our past informs our present and how fervent passion heals old wounds.
The world of Ballade vir 'n Enkeling is magnificently realised by production designer Waldemar Coetzee; it reflects the lives of its characters and amplifies its thematic purpose, allowing us to share the nostalgic romance and intimacy.
If you are looking for perfect escapism, Ballade Vir 'n Enkeling delivers what it promises, and so much more, offering a well-made South African film we can all be proud of and will remember long after we have left the cinema. The film is in Afrikaans with English subtitles, so there's no excuse for anyone to miss it.
As a freelance film and theatre journalist for more than 30 years, published playwright and creator of the independent training initiative The Writing Studio, Daniel Dercksen has been a contributor for Lifestyle since 2012. Visit www.writingstudio.co.za
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