Having enjoyed the novel, I was keen to see the film. As it starred Chiwetel Ejiofor as Alex Mpondo, I was even more keen. He is an exceptional actor. Hilary Swank played Sarah Barcant so expectations were high.
Like many adaptations from novels, there is a lot of streamlining of the plot to give the story a single spine. Some of the layers from the novel are lost. In this case some of the back story of lawyer and activist Ben Hoffman is omitted, as is detail about Sarah’s time in the town and her relationships with people she knew when she was younger. There is a whole strand of the book about Pieter Muller’s wife which does not make it into the film. However, the central themes remain. The cost of telling the truth remains a central issue and the repercussions for those who would rather forget the past is still central to the plot. What the film does so well, is show the anguish on faces, both on tortured activist, Alex Mpondo, and on the torturer, Dirk Hendricks. Actor Jamie Bartlett who plays Hendricks is excellent at showing something hidden just below the surface; should we trust this man or not?
The beautiful scenery is also there to act as a back drop to the story of hatred. Director Tom Hooper went on to make the hits ‘The King’s Speech’ and ‘The Damned United’ but this, his first film as a director, has a lot of heart and no easy conclusions. It is in my hinterland. What’s in yours?