Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight? Well, there aren’t any wolves in Wolwedans, so the devil it is.
Based on the classic radio drama, Wolwedans in the Skemer is the tale of a mysterious woman, who after a car accident, finds herself at a remote country lodge and without any of her former memories. Her appearance however does not bode well as a slew of murders ensue at the hands of a hooded figure.
It’s hard to write this review because even when one tries to say “don’t take this personally”, the recipient of the judgement, unless extremely mature and professional, will undoubtedly get hurt in some capacity. Leon van Nierop, one of South Africas most well known film critics is responsible for the writing Wolwedans, and while I respect him as a person (he’s awfully well spirited and sociable) and a critic (always of sound judgement), I have no choice but to let my opinion be known. Sorry Leon.
The first thing I noticed while watching Wolwedans is how beautifully it was shot – the scenery is breathtaking with its subdued colour palette and the cinematography is equally dramatic. From a visual standpoint, this South African film is truly on the same level as its Hollywood ilk and proves that there is yet some talent in our country.
Still, a lot of visual cues don’t make any sense, so aesthetically it is amazing but at times loses focus of the bigger picture in favour of unimportant details that see a frequent reprisal.
Wolwedans always has an air of mystery to it, a latent intensity that rears its head but never quite comes into full view, similar to the wolf on a hunt – this however is one of the many issues in the film. It’s all good and well to hold back until the last possible moment but in Wolwedans, they take the ‘last minute’ concept a bit too literally, with the climax lasting only a few moments. The punchline isn’t bad, but there is no reason why the rest of the film had to be bland until we reach that point. Looking further into it, I realise that it must have been a tough ordeal to condense such a long running story into one and a half hours, but for a standard length film, it moves awfully slowly thanks to it’s largely uneventful nature.
Somehow, Afrikaans films have a universal appeal to Afrikaaners…whether this is genuine target marketing or an unfounded devotion to patriotism, I can’t tell, but if you liked the TV series or radio drama, this should hit the spot. The spoken language is Afrikaans, but there are helpful subtitles that for the most part make sense.
The Bottom Line
Wolwedans in die Skemer is a beautiful film, stunningly shot and a real visual treat. Sadly, visuals can only take a movie so far. Adapting a long running series into a standard length motion picture can’t have been an easy task, and it shows as the pacing is incredibly unbalanced with multiple dead zones along the way. The acting is another high point, with the typical South African talent, incestuously leaking through. Throughout all of this, I feel that the script has been realised as best it could, it’s nothing special but at least it is watchable and one of the better local offerings of 2012.