South Africa’s ‘The Endless River’ Highlights Tragedy And The Cycle Of Violence In A Small Town

Tragedy is nothing new in South Africa. As the violence of farm murders continues to escalate, South Africa struggles with racial violence and xenophobia. In the latest offering by South African director Oliver Hermanus, he brings together two strangers from widely different backgrounds into a story that highlights the violence in South Africa.

As reported in the Hollywood Reporter, the story begins with Tiny. She is a waitress working in a small town restaurant in Riviersonderend, Afrikaans for the Endless River. Her husband, Percy, has just been released from prison and has moved in with Tiny, her mother and the rest of the family. Tiny’s mother, a sharp, no-nonsense lady, tells Percy to stay away from the gang he previously hung out with. Not long after, he is seen hanging out and boozing it up with friends.

One of Tiny’s customers is Gilles, a French expat living in South Africa on an isolated farm with his wife and two sons. Later, in a brutal act of violence, Gille’s wife is savagely raped and murdered and both of his sons are shot by three masked intruders.

As Gilles struggles with the rage and pain he feels over this senseless act of violence, Tiny suffers a loss of her own, which brings them together.

Variety reported that the movie has a rich opening scene featuring the landscape of South Africa that looks very similar to the American Midwest. Braam du Toit’s score highlights the fact that this movie isn’t about a world of pure naturalism. It is a fear that many South Africans face today.

Although much of the underlying theme rests on the seriousness of the problems of farm murders in South Africa, at least one of the scenes where Gilles is talking to a local police captain fails to emphasize what is really happening in South Africa. Since nothing was taken from the home, police chief Groenewald assumes that it is a gang initiation rite instead of an act of racial violence.

Through the vivid scene of the rape and murder of Gille’s wife, Hermanus communicates the savageness of the crime, which may lead some to raise questions about exploitation. Hermanus works for realism at least in this scene. As social integration continues in South Africa, the presence of Tiny and Gilles being brought together isn’t really worthy of note. It is the chain of misfortune and chance instead that brings these two characters together. The question remains whether or not they are brought together for revenge, escape, or maybe even healing.

This is the third film by South Africa writer/director Oliver Hermanus and his first movie in 10 years. Will you go to see The Endless River?

[Photo Credit Ernesto Ruscio/Getty Images]