Term Paper: Film Analysis: "Boesman and Lena

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[. . .] Another problem with the film is that, despite the occasional flashback montages that paint more of a portrait of South African history than the history of the couple, is that the film it is very heavily dialogue driven, and as noted before, very heavily driven by negative, rather than positive dialogue between the couple. The film's script was based upon Fugard's original stage play, and the structure of "Boesman and Lena" has really not evolved into a cinematic tale that uses pictures as well as words to tell a story. Even the camera angles that tell the sparse tale do not add much additional insight to the characterization of the couple, and the dialogue between the two actors reveals very little that is specific about the couple, other than the fact that Lena is dispirited, depressed, and tired, and Boesman is filled with inexpressible rage he cannot vent upon his real tormentors

Rather than use the scenery to add to the couple's characterization, the cinematic audience meets the central in a faceless shantytown. Against this 'nowhere' of hopelessness, hopeless characters rage and seem to 'represent' things, like suffering and rage, rather than to have any unique and idiosyncratic characteristics, against a vacant background of poverty. Even the symbolism of the scenery used in the film seems unimaginative and heavy -- the crashing waves on the beach represent the clash between the husband and wife. The desolation of the mud and wire represents the separation and cloudy nature of the character's souls. The audience meets the couple at their most anonymous, after they have broken with one another, in an anonymous setting. The play's shantytown is much like the sparse anywhere of a stage play. The characters speak in long, drawn-out monologues that further reduce the sense of interaction between the two characters. This device s tedious in a film, even if it might not be on a stage, where this convention is more accepted.

The plot of the film really evolves in dialogue between Boseman and Lena, a difficult thing to make interesting on film. Their physical actions in the real time, as opposed to the flashbacks show them scavenging for food and shelter, after having walked all day. It becomes clear that Lena is an alcoholic and Glover's Boesman abused her. These character traits, even though they are explained, often alienate the viewer's sympathy with the characters, and the viewer has no other point of reference other than the two, to sustain his or her interest.

When the two characters do recollect happy moments, their anger and the past and present violence of the society undercut such moments so quickly, they hardly give any humanity or credence to such memories. The most illuminating part of the play for a non-African viewer is perhaps its illustration of racism, even of mixed race individuals like the central couple, against Black natives. At one point Lena, befriends a Black tribesman. This creates some sympathy for Lena, as it is her most vigorous positive action, other than her refuge into alcohol and shouting during the whole film, although Boesman's derisive attitude makes Glovers' character even more unsympathetic. OF course, it is possible to argue that the sense of being 'controlled' by the system is so great that any kind of resistance, even in the mind, is virtually futile, and racism creates barriers between lovers, friends, people of color, and even between children and parents. But this explanation of alcoholism, depression, and familial violence, although true, is repeated time and time again. The use repetitive 'stagy' devices of overly wordy poetic speeches is abused to the point that the internalization of systemic racism Fugard wished to suggest lacks the emotional force a play or film should have upon the viewing audience, even if this idea may have intellectual truth as a concept. [END OF PREVIEW]

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