Review: Dis Ek, Anna

The Haunting Memory Of Abuse

Review by Daniel Dercksen (October 21, 2015)

A woman soulfully redeems her innocence in Dis Ek, Anna, a powerful South African film that shows how the vicious cycle of the sexual abuse of children destroys lives and families.

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Truthfully revealing the evil face of a silent killer that turns the domestic bliss of happy families into a war zone where children are sexually abused by those they trust most, it is a commanding and relevant film about a woman who is imprisoned by the guilt of falling victim to a sexual predator as a teenage girl and tormented by the memories of this tragic incident that results in her taking action to revenge the perpetrator.

There is no graphic or tasteless exposition, but a stylish and well-crafted film that showcases the best talent South Africa has to offer.

The film is based on Anchien Troskie’s best-selling fictionalised autobiographical novels Ek, Anna and Die Staat Teen Anna Bruwer, written under the pseudonym Elbie Lötter, and was aptly adapted for film by writer, dramatist and director Tertius Kapp, who also explored violence in society in his play Rooiland.

In Dis Ek, Anna, Kapp reveals the four distinct faces of men: a loving father and family man who turns monstrous, a sexual predator who perpetuates his crime relentlessly, a protector of society who needs to find a way to stop the shocking crimes against woman and children; and a man whose love can set an abused woman free.

Director Sara Blecher paints a stark portrait of how women rally up against a brutal onslaught:  revenge is bitter for a woman who takes action to revenge on the man who sexually abused her when she was a teenager,  a mother who becomes a silent witness is crucified in guilt, and one of the most interesting scenes in the film actually occurs where a woman sits smoking on her porch and silently watches what happens when someone revenges a sexual predator living inside her house, and when the deed is done and they leave the house, she picks up a bucket and a mop and enters the house to clean up the mess.

Blecher knows how to tell a story in pictures and skilfully merges the contrasting realms of Dis Ek, Anna, allowing for graceful but potent transitions between the world of a young girl whose life is a nightmarish hell, and that of a woman who awakens from the nightmare.

There is potent drama in Blecher’s vision that is never intrusive, she keeps a wary distance observing broken lives and slowly reveals the haunting shadows that lurk beneath the surface of ordinary existence.

We journey into the lives of people we think we know well, and gradually uncover hidden secrets that ultimately reveal their true nature.

Charlené Brouwer delivers a heartbreaking performance as a woman who confronts the man who destroyed her innocence; it is a difficult role to portray and Brouwer succeeds in perfectly balancing the cold and calculated physicality of her character with the intensity of her brittle emotional torment.

Morné Visser is superb as Anna’s stepfather who is crucified in his sexual perversion, his Jekyll and Hyde persona is chilling; we cannot help but love the perfect family man and absolutely detest his dark psyche.

As a mother who becomes a silent witness to the tragedy and the demise of her daughter’s innocence, Nicola Hanekom will break your heart when she is forced to confront her weakness as a mother who failed her duty. Here stands a woman who knows everything but does nothing.

Izel Bezuidenhout who plays the young Anna manages to draw us into the intimate horror that befalls a young girl and also brings the rebellious and provocative nature of her character to life.

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Izel Bezuidenhout, Morné Visser and Nicola Hanekom

Marius Weyers delivers another emotionally driven performance as a hardened policeman, whose life is drastically changed, allowing us to journey into Anna’s fragile disposition.

There’s also a memorable performance from Drikus Volschenk as the lawyer who dares to break down the barriers that prevent Anna from finding peace, and one whose love can hopefully set her free.

The multi-layered and flawed characters in Dis Ek, Anna offers drama for discerning audiences that is riveting and captivating, drawing us into a reality that we often ignore, and sadly remains the shameful whisper of an unspoken truth.

It’s not only a film about abuse but an equally important film about the healing power of love;  Anna finds escape from her past in the arms of a man she wants to trust and one who will honour and respect her as a woman.

The film clearly shows that being helpless is not a hopeless situation, but a motivator that inspires action to transform lives and heal wounds.

We need films like Dis Ek, Anna to remind us of how important it is to own our human rights for dignity and respect, and to open up a conversation between silent sufferers and passive observers.

Copyright © 2015  Daniel Dercksen