Title: Proteus Credit: Chris Banks Movies Wednesday 8th June 2005 - 12:00pm1118188800 Article: 763 Rights
Dirs: John Greyson there's a guard with sunglasses, and a transistor radio that pops up out of nowhere. If anything, there should have been more of this sort of stuff to illustrate what hasn't changed between then and now. For a truly ironic finale, we could have even had Drowning by the Backstreet Boys on the soundtrack as our doomed lovers are pushed into the ocean by their executioners. What, I spoiled the end for you? Don't be silly, it's foreshadowed in the first two minutes of the film in one of those "stick random interesting scenes at the front to keep them watching" moments. Now by this point, you're probably thinking I didn't like Proteus very much. Well, it is the sort of film that leaves you on a downer. It starts pretty slow as well, preoccupied as it is with a subplot about botany that is really this story's McGuffin. We don't give a shit about the flowers, we want to see what happens when the prisoners get it on, OK? And when they do, there are some nice moments. It's a passionate affair, which develops over time into love. There's even a bit of a love triangle, with a Scottish botanist from Amsterdam (who looks a bit like Colin Farrell) and his rather camp associate. Things end badly for them as well, for this is a time when there is no such thing as homosexuality – only that favourite term of the fundamentalists, "sodomy", and it is punishable by death, even in Holland. Not much is done to give the viewer some context for this, though. For much of the film, homosexuality is turned a blind eye to, then suddenly without warning there's a moral uprising and men are being arrested and garotted quicker than you can exclaim "bloody Mary!" Perhaps that's the point though, for gay men, this was a life lived quite literally on the edge. Sadly, in a country like South Africa, you get the feeling that an inter-racial relationship like this wouldn't be accepted much today either. In one of the film's more moving scenes, lovers Claas and Rijkhaart fantasise about how they might be able to live together if they ever get out of prison, inventing scenarios that might not arouse suspicion. It's upsetting and infuriating, and a missed opportunity for the Labour Party who sponsored the screening – they should have got up at the start and said, "Vote Labour or you'll all end up like the people in this film". A depressing slice of history for those who like their love stories to be relentlessly self-flagellating. One for the Catholics. Chris Banks - 8th June 2005    
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