Saturday, December 29, 2007
The Gods Must Be Crazy
The Gods Must Be Crazy; comedy, South Africa / Botswana, 1980; D: Jamie Uys, S: N!xau, Marius Weyers, Sandra Prinsloo, Louw Verwey, Michael Thys, Nic De Jager, Fanyana H. Sidumo
Kalahari desert, South Africa. Xi is a Bushman who lives happily with his tribe far away from any kind of civilization. But one day an airplane drops an empty bottle of Coca-Cola which Xi considers to be a gift from the Gods. The Bushmen start using the bottle as a tool, but also engage in arguments over who will have it. Thus, Xi decides to dispose of the "evil" bottle at the end of the world. At the same time, journalist Meg Thompson travels in the jeep of the clumsy adventurer Andrew to a school in Botswana. There, some militants take the children as hostages, but Andrew frees them with the help of Xi. The Bushman finds a cliff and throws the bottle in it.
"The Gods Must Be Crazy" became a movie phenomenon: except for a surprising success in cinemas all over the world, it also affirmed itself as the most famous film from South Africa and for some time even acted as its trademark. The biggest acclaim goes to director Jamie Uys, the author of the documentary "Animals Are Beautiful People", who used the periphery, authentic and endemic sights of his country, and truly, the exposition of the film is fascinatingly simple: at first, the map of South Africa is shown, then the elaborated landscapes of Kalahari, until finally the main protagonist is introduced, Bushman Xi, played by the real Bushman N!xau. The details with which the isolated tribe was shown captured some sort of an meditative touch: they don't have prisons, they don't know for time or government, they gain water independently from plants while Xi apologizes to an antelope for killing her because he was hungry. There is some universal charm to these images, as if one watches a time lapse of simple, ancient people and their culture before history. The main plot in which a bottle of Coca-Cola falls from the sky - in a neatly humorous way, "whistling" in the fall - is genius, and even innocently sends a message about human superstition without insulting anyone, but once the two subplots are introduced, one revolving around Andrew, a clumsy adventurer who took too many of low-brow humor mannerisms when he "accidentally" breaks things, and the second one revolving around revolutionary militants kidnapping children, the movie irreversibly looses its innocent sophistication from the start. If it were revolving only around the Bushmen, the movie would have been better. Still, even the character of Andrew has his moments (in one scene, just as he safely carried the journalist Meg over to the shore, they fall into the water) while the documentary flair, present through Uys's working with non-actors, genuine people playing themselves, even reminds a little bit of Herzog's tactic in "Stroszeck".