Verraaiers (Traitors) is the latest drama from director-writer team, Paul Eilers and Salmon de Jager, who previously collaborated on Roepman (Stargazer). These film-makers are quickly developing a reputation for producing quality films, characterised by strong performances, beautiful cinematography and compelling narratives, and Verraaiers continues this trajectory.

Verraaiers is the story of several men, who decide to protect their families and run the risk of being branded ‘cowards’ in favour of continuing an inevitable war. It’s a soul-searching drama that settles on a close-knit community, exploring themes of bravery, culture, loyalty, family, duty and politics.

Many South African films are ambitious to a fault, over-extending their means and minimizing traction in the process. Verraaiers tells a big story with a small budget, managing resources carefully without losing authenticity or scope. This gives the film weight and muscle, delivering an Afrikaans film of international caliber.

Verraaiers stars Gys de Villiers as Kommandant van Aswegen, whose bold decision sets in motion a series of dire consequences. He captains an ensemble, whose supporting performances are strong on both an individual and team level. Deon Lotz (Skoonheid) gives grace and vulnerability to the father figure of Generaal de la Rey. Altus Theart is ruthless as Kruger, a steely-eyed “bounty hunter”. The late Andrew Thompson’s soulful looks are heartrending. There are no outstanding performances, and for once… that’s a actually a good thing!

Another noteworthy aspect of Verraaiers is the production values. The film has a real sense of authenticity that helps the actors really live their environment. Shooting on location and using accurate costume design adds to the realism and helps immerse the audience in the history.

Spling MoviesThese choices are highlighted by beautiful cinematography, composing a textured film that sometimes feels like a moving artwork. There are several inconsistencies, especially one shaky airborne shot, and the film-makers have closed in on their actors for maximum performance. However, this sometimes gives Verraaiers an unintentional TV drama austere, one you’d usually associate with a mini-series.

The main criticism with Verraaiers is the pacing. The film is old-fashioned and Eilers may have been trying to anchor the drama in it’s own period’s ebb-and-flow. While powerful and based on real events, the storytelling just seems too stretched and it’s a case of going nowhere slowly. It’s like watching a car crash in slow-motion, concerned for those involved, fascinated by the devastation – but emotionally distant and dreading one unfortunate outcome or another, as primed by the title and movie poster.

While the cast deliver an exceptional collective of performances, the authenticity really takes you there, the story is powerful and the cinematography is beautifully composed – the slow-moving drama, intermittent TV drama feel and staggered storytelling detracts from the film’s fluidity. Verraaiers shows glimpses of brilliance, will hit home for many and is recommended viewing, but it’s not for everyone. If you enjoyed Die Wonderwerker, you will find a complementary and compelling historical drama in Veraaiers.

The bottom line: Monumental

Stephen ‘Spling’ Aspeling
http://www.spling.co.za
http://www.spling.mobi


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