| Addicted to Solitude
Director Jon Bang Carlsen
Writer Jon Bang Carlsen
Running time 60 minutes
Made Denmark 1999
Reviewed by Nic O
WHEN director Jon Bang Carlsen decided to document what life is life for the Afrikaans in post-Apartheid South Africa he hoped to film a farm run by a white family. Instead, in the process of interviewing various people as general research, he became intrigued by two women and decided to make them the focus of his film.
By contrasting the lives and views of the two interviewees he manages to give an impressive insight into what it is to be white in rural South Africa at a time when the media more usually bombards with images of Nelson Mandela and the persecution of blacks when discussing the troubled country. Interestingly the film acquired it's name largely in reference to the idea that the white settlers alienated themselves from the majority of the population with Apartheid so that at the regime's collapse whites have become increasingly lonely and insular people with uncertain futures.
The two female subjects are a generation apart, something often reflected by their attitudes. The elder of the two is an eccentric running a small shop selling a variety of bizarre objects with one of her regular customers being her ex-husband who lives next door. She is very religious, now only really communicating with her beloved pet parrot. Though she will happily talk about missing the days of Apartheid and relishes the gory details of stories she uses to illustrate her claim that "the blacks beat their wives and murder their grandmothers". Meanwhile the second woman lives in a particularly remote farm with her dog and her black labourers, with whom she appears to have a very successful and happy relationship, for company. Her husband has been missing without explanation for 2 years.
Although the two women are both very much alone in their lives and have both suffered tragic losses, they have little else in common and the juxtapositioning of their vastly differing beliefs about their place in South Africa in the more interesting political material in the film. Meanwhile their own personal stories are fascinating in themselves, as is the obsession the director seems to form with the older lady's shop.
As the film is constructed from rough research material not intended to form a final film, the quality of the filming is not always superb but the scale and emptiness of the landscape is stunning all the same and the personal interviews remain compulsive viewing. The documentary also easily succeeds in being genuinely insightful, with references to a potential war in the future between blacks and whites all the more chilling in light of the recent land reform troubles in Zimbabwe.