TL;DR – The Wound sits on the precipice of culture, tradition, and masculinity, and shows the damage on inflexibility.
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
I have been spending the day brushing up on the many foreign films that I just haven’t been able to see, and the next stop on my trip around the world is South Africa. African cinema is one area where I need to explore more because this is the first film I have ever seen in Xhosa. With that in mind, let’s look at a film that explores the world of becoming a man in a very traditional society.
So to set the scene, throughout the year Xolani (Nakhane Touré) or X to his friends spends his time working and living alone in the city. However, once a year he comes back to the mountains to be a helper in the Ulwaluko ceremony. This is the Xhosa ceremony that marks the transition from boy to manhood. However, while he is there as a guide to help the initiates, X is also there for another reason, because it is the one time he gets to connect with Vija (Bongile Mantsai) a friend and secretly his romantic partner. This year X is being put in charge of Kwanda (Niza Jay Ncoyini) who is considered soft because he grew up in the city and does not care for tradition.
of the area’s this film explores is that of power, the power we have over each
other, and the power society can have over people. While X and Vija are in a
sexual and romantic relationship, there is a clear power dynamic between them,
which Vija exploits at times. As well as this, there is meant to be a clear dynamic
of power between the initiates and the caregivers, and Kwanda consistently upsets
that power dynamic. Then, of course, there is the power of society and
expectation, which might be the most dangerous thing in the film.
I should point out that there are some quite confronting scenes, one of the first things the film centres on is the circumcision of a number of people, the titular wound in the title (well at least the physical wound). As well as this, there are a number of scenes involving the killing of goats, which I can’t tell you if they were staged or real, because if they were fake the film did a very good job of making them real.
area where I was really fascinated by The Wound is how it shows in the intersection
of culture, tradition, and masculinity. This is a private ceremony closed off
from the world where boys become men, with all the pressure that exists in such
a space. There is the pressure to conform to the weight of tradition, and if
you defy tradition you are a coward. This directly hits at the heart of
masculinity and the damage that can be done to protect it.
There is this moment right at the end, so of course [SPOILERS] where everything came to a head, where Kwanda threatens to expose Vija to his wife. Vija then immediately tries to kill Kwanda to protect his life from being destroyed by what would happen if word got out. Kwanda comes from a different place and life. So while he is clearly trying to help X out because he sees the unequal relationship, he does not understand the societal pressure on X and Vija, and so he does not see it coming. It is a stark end to a stark film, where every step was filled with danger.
In the end, do we recommend The Wound? Both, yes and no. It is telling an interesting story of what happens when tradition and obligation intersect. It is powerfully acted, with an almost uncompromising view. However, it is not here to offer any solutions or answers to that conflict and ends on a very difficult note. Which makes watching it very difficult at times.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Wound
Directed by – John Trengove
Written by – John Trengove, Thando Mgqolozana & Malusi Bengu
Music by – João Orecchia
Cinematography by – Paul Ozgur
Edited by – Matthew Swanepoel
Production/Distribution Companies – Urucu Media, Riva Filmproduktion, Das Kleine Fernsehspiel, Oak Motion Pictures & Cool Take Pictures.
Starring – Nakhane Touré, Bongile Mantsai, Niza Jay Ncoyini, Siphosethu “Seth Singer” Ngcetane, Loyiso Lloyd N Ngqayana, Sibabalwe Esbie Ngqayana, Halalisani Bradley Cebekhulu & Inga Qwede
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: na; Germany: 16; New Zealand: na; United Kingdom: 15; United States: na