Marion Hänsel – Dust (1985)

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J. M. COETZEE’S ”In the Heart of the Country” (published here as ”From the Heart of the Country”) is written as a diary, in the fierce, scathing, half-mad voice of a woman living in near-isolation on a South African sheep farm. With its startling clarity and its paradoxically hallucinatory style, this brief 1977 novel would seem to be well out of any film maker’s reach.

But Marion Hansel, a Belgian director, has attempted to adapt it anyhow, and has done a job that is creditable if in some ways incomplete. The remote, barren setting for the story, on the veldt in Cape Province, has been hauntingly evoked (though the film was shot in Spain). And the characters, played by well-chosen, visually striking actors, are given life and stature.

Miss Hansel’s ”Dust,” which opens today at Film Forum 2, has a handsome look that manages, in the manner of the great American westerns, to be both classical and wild. If it lacks the surprise and complexity of Mr. Coetzee’s vision, and if its stillness sometimes borders on the becalmed, it nonetheless has a stark, streamlined manner and an underlying urgency. Continue reading