The Wound (Inxeba)
Following a group of teenage boys as they endure a traditional initiation ceremony to enter manhood, director John Trengove’s The Wound is an evocative examination of masculinity, sexuality, culture and race within a traditional South African community trying to hold on to their values in the modern world. South Africa’s answer to Brokeback Mountain, there is a lot to appreciate and learn from this film.
By neither demonising nor romanticising this traditional way of life, the Johannesburg-born auteur is able to paint a wider, more complex representation of the broader issues at hand, one that succinctly illustrates the very real struggle of maintaining one’s cultural identity within a more progressive world – especially if you don’t comply with what these traditions expect. It’s ultimately left to the viewer to decide for themselves whether or not certain aspects of an older way of living still have their place today. Whilst this remains true for the most part, however, the movie’s final scenes do start to preach a message that has been consistently part of the subtext. Though not undermining what has come before, this on-the-nose dialogue is distractingly out of character.
Likewise, this rich thematic content is further carried by an outstanding cast. Nakhane Touré and Bongile Mantsai’s contributions are particularly noteworthy, as their differing methods of repressing their attraction to each other alongside the resulting conflicts feel genuine. Niza Jay – who plays one of the initiates – also gives a fantastic subdued performance as an outsider returning to their heritage. As a peripheral character, he becomes our lens through which to view the feature, but his lack of acting experience is evident in some shaky lines.
This is a movie that places its central themes firmly in the foreground, but consequently, this results in a production that often feels bare-boned. On one hand, the minimalistic style of direction enables the messages to get across louder, but given that there are brief hints of exceptional filmmaking scattered throughout, we’re left with a feeling that this picture could have been even more stunning – though we’re hopeful about what Trengrove could do for his native cinema in the near future.
The definitive example of substance over style, The Wound is a powerful and thoughtful examination of a traditional South African lifestyle that raises questions which should be brought to the attention of the western world.
The Wound (Inxeba) is released in select cinemas on 27th April 2018.
Watch the trailer for The Wound (Inxeba) here: