Boesman And Lena

on November 03, 2000 by Ed Scheid
"Boesman and Lena" is the film version of Athol Fugard's play about the internal and external damage caused by apartheid in South Africa. This is the last film directed by John Berry, who died a few days before completing post-production. After being blacklisted in the '50s, Berry left Hollywood and later directed throughout the world. Berry had an affinity for Fugard, and staged various theatre productions of the work of the South African playwright, including "Boesman and Lena" in New York in 1970.

A shanty town in Cape Town is bulldozed by government forces. Once again, Boesman (Danny Glover) and Lena (Angela Bassett) are forced to gather up their meager belongings to find a new home. Using found rubbish, including a car door, they build a makeshift home on a deserted muddy slope. With hostile rage, Boesman continually belittles Lena, who remains defiant against his abuse.

Director Berry, who also wrote the screenplay, gives a strong sense of the desolation and emptiness of the physical setting, which is reflected in the relationship of the characters. Throughout the film, Berry skillfully intercuts scenes of the two in happier and more prosperous times. Besides cinematically developing the past of Boesman and Lena, the flashbacks also contrast their intense conversations. They encounter an old tribesman (Willie Jonah), who's even lower on the government classification scale that they are. While Lena tries to comfort the old man, his presence makes Boesman even angrier.

Danny Glover, who has starred on stage in every major Fugard work except "Boesman and Lena," impressively personifies how the repressive government of South Africa has embittered and dehumanized Boesman. Glover has said that he doesn't think he would have become an actor without Fugard. Angela Bassett is memorable in an award-caliber performance of remarkable range. Bassett's portrait combines warmth, passion and anguish, as well as Lena's increasing strength. Berry and his two stars have collaborated on a powerful cinematic version of Fugard's penetrating play about pain and endurance. Starring Danny Glover, Angela Bassett and Willie Jonah. Directed and written by John Berry. Produced by Francois Ivernel and Pierre Rissient. A Kino release. Drama. Not yet rated. Running time: 88 min.

Tags: Danny Glover, Angela Bassett, Willie Jonah, John Berry, Francois Ivernel, Pierre Rissient, Kino, Drama

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