Verdict: 4 / 5
“Choo-choo…” Faan (Willie Esterhuizen) mimics his beloved train every morning, believing that it greets him and the new day. A grown man with the mentality of a child, he is misunderstood and taunted by the small Karoo children.
Set in the late 50’s, the town folk are either tolerant of his simple mindedness or want him institutionalized. With a big target on his back, Faan tries to go about his life with his father Frik (Cobus Rossouw) as best they can. But having to hear the taunting words “Faan, Faan, simpel Faan, die onderdorp se hoenderhaan” on a weekly bases provokes Faan to physical violence. The town sergeant (AJ van der Merwe) repeatedly scolds the children to leave Faan alone, for if he is not provoked he is harmless. Not everyone agrees and at the front is Tante Magriet(Sandra Kotzé). After another incident, this time involving the town mayor/doctor’s wife Beatrice Dippenaar(Nicola Hanekom), Dr. Dippenaar steps in and offers to take Faan home. Tante Margriet now has another person in her corner as Bea agrees that Faan is dangerous. Dr. Dippenaar has a soft spot for Faan and often spoils him with gifts.
The town council have to decide on who they will use to build the dam, a job that Frik and Faan’s family is known for. But with Frik’s old age and Faan’s mental state in question, some vote that bulldozers be bought in. For practical reasons, it’s a lot faster than Frik and his donkeys. Frik fights the metal beast till his last breath, uttering prophetic words that many of the town folk later come to realise. Upon Friks death, Faan only has his neighbour Truia (Anel Alexander) to look after him, but he has other plans. In his simple mindedness he displays real wisdom.
The script combines the very successful stage plays written by Pieter Fourie “Faan se Trein” and “Faan se Stasie” dating back to the 70’s. The screenplay is not at all predictable and encompasses so many themes and elements, which allows the main plot and its characters to develop without haste. It is an excellent mix of drama and comedy, and even more so for a South African audience. You will laugh and cry and find yourself being so deeply involved with the characters.
It is not only a pleasure to watch because of the solid script, or excellent cast, but visually pleasing. One can understand why Amelia Henning was awarded for cinematography. Koos Roets, known for Paljas, just has a natural talent for directing complex stories, making it appear effortless. Being a period piece, set in the 1950’s, the set design, costume and make-up departments deserve acknowledgement. Alexander explains how not wearing any make-up was truly freeing and allowed for her character Truia to manifest without pretence. And Lotz was thrilled to drive the beautiful 1937 Cadillac V8. Although the star cast live up to their reputations, special mention needs to be made to Esterhuizen who surprises with a flawless performance as Faan – far from his Vetkoekpaleis days as Worsie.
The film won 9 awards at the second KykNET Silwerskermfees: Best film, Best Director, Best Actor – Esterhuizen, Best Supporting Actor- Lotz, Best Supporting Actress- Alexander, Best Script- Fourie&Roets, Best Editing- Nicholas Costaras, Best Cinematography- Henning and Best Sound Design- Barry Donnely.