2012-10-12 12:25
What's it about:

Antoinette van Wyk (Angelique Pretorius) is a talented Afrikaans singer on the verge of making it big when tragedy strikes in the form of a violent home invasion. She witnesses her father (Deon Coetzee) and mother's murder and barely makes it out alive herself. Traumatised by the events, she refuses to speak or sing and relocates to a farm in Oudsthoorn to stay with her aunt and uncle. There she meets a young pastor, Pieter (Andre Frauenstein), who helps her regain her voice, her life and her faith.

What we thought:

It's always a tough one when a film is based on or centres around religion, and this includes any religion for that matter. The reason you might ask? Well, this is because most religious themed movies deal with some form of tragedy or life-altering event and the subsequent journey of dealing with it through faith.

This is something each and every person goes through or experiences in their lifetime. Tragedy, love, sadness, happiness – they're all things all of us as human beings go through and experience and deal with in different ways, irrespective of our beliefs. And having said that, I think Stilte can be viewed as providing a universal message which speaks to everyone, not just Christians.

The film almost immediately starts with the home invasion scene, or let's rather just call it what it is, an armed robbery, which is quite fleeting and not very brutal, but manages to evoke deep, buried feelings of helplessness.

Director Darrell Roodt (Yesterday, Sarafina!, Jakhalsdans) manages to set the tone for the whole film in this short scene, which, if you've been through a home invasion, like I have, will make your stomach churn. It's something which, talking about it years after it happened, you still can't put into words. Or describe in detail. Or fully remember for that matter. But that feeling, that's what sticks with you. That's what comes back when faced with it again. And being a South African, I'd say most people will relate to this.

Having said all of that, you'd think the film caught me hook, line and sinker, but… and there is a but… a few things were a bit bothersome.

The soundtrack is basically a Nianell album. And I get the religious theme and Nianell's angelic voice and all that, but it just gets a bit too much. And then there's the very noticeable background music which starts very abruptly and loudly in between scenes. But let's hope that the delay in the movie's release (it was initially set for release in September) meant that the sound problems encountered during an early press screening were fixed.

The storyline is also very predictable, which is fine, because as is the case with all feel-good movies, right? But is it just me or is singing THE theme for Afrikaans movies these days? Think Ek Lief Jou (featuring Kurt Darren), Jakhalsdans (featuring Theuns Jordaan) and Susanna van Biljon (featuring Karen Zoid).

It's like the thriving Afrikaans film industry takes the easy way out, writing for the massive existing Afrikaans music audience out there who they know will go and watch a film starring Afrikaans singers. And adding a religious theme on top of that: A guaranteed success.

At least Angelique Pretorius' performance is a brightly burning candle at the end of the tunnel. She definitely did her research on post-traumatic stress, which adds some authenticity to her character. Antoinette is funny and quirky, which offers chemistry between her and Pieter.

There's nothing spectacular about Stilte, but at least the beautiful Karoo landscape and Andre Frauenstein being easy on the eye will make it bearable.

A heart-warming and spiritual Afrikaans movie about a promising young singer whose life is shattered by tragedy - though it sticks too closely to tired movie clichés.
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