Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
German Currents ’13: Layla Fourie
and deceit hang heavy in the South African air.
That should be good for Layla Fourie’s career. She is a freshly certified polygraph
operator. Unfortunately, she also ensnares herself with a web of lies in Pia
Marais’ Layla Fourie (trailer here), which screens as
part of the Goethe Institut’s German Currents: Festival of German Film in Los
is a single mother with limited resources, but she stands on the brink of a
better life. Hired by a polygraph company, she is sent to a large provincial
casino to screen their next batch of prospective employees. Tragically, while
in transit, Fourie runs down a stranded motorist she mistakenly takes for a carjacker.
It was a dark and stormy night, and Fourie initially tries to do the right
thing. Eventually though, she just dumps the body and covers up her crime as
best she can. Of course, there is a witness: her horrible brat of a son, Kane.
proceeding with her work, Fourie starts polygraphing applicants, including
Eugene Pienaar, one of the few white job seekers. He immediately resents her
intrusive questions, but is also somewhat attracted to her. These responses make Fourie profoundly uneasy
around him. As Fourie reluctantly comes to know Pienaar, she realizes his missing
deadbeat father was the man she crashed into. The more time she spends with
Pienaar, the more her conscience torments her. To make matters worse, Kane
turns out to be a natural born blackmailer.
ethically compromised polygraph operator is a fresh and intriguing noir
premise, but Marais and co-writer Horst Markgraf never fully capitalize on its
potential. Frustratingly, the polygraph machines entirely disappear after the
first act. Still, the relationship that uneasily develops between Fourie and
Pienaar is sharply written and smartly played by Rayna Campbell and August
Diehl, respectively. They share some
real screen chemistry, but also convey all the thorny collective history making
them instinctively wary of each other.
LF really crackles
when Campbell and Diehl share the screen.
Regrettably, there is also an awful lot of utterly dreadful Kane, who
makes a compelling case for child abuse.
Frankly, his behavior never rings true.
After all, kids are usually highly attuned to their parents’
circumstances and prone to show solidarity.
the lawless milieu of LF feels very
true to life. Ruthlessly naturalistic in
her approach, Marais holds a mirror up to nature and finds its reflection bitter
and two-faced. Now based in Germany, Marais split her childhood years between
South Africa and Sweden. Clearly, she is not entirely sanguine about the prospects
for her partial homeland’s social fiber. After all, nearly everyone in LF is morally suspect—the only question
is to what extent.
LF vividly immerses viewers in its harsh
reality. Cinematographer André Chemetoff
nicely frames the character’s intimate angst and the harsh beauty of their
surrounding environment. It might be a
bit of a ringer at German Currents, but the work of Campbell and Diehl should
still pull in viewers expecting something more like Young Goethe in Love. (It is also part of the trio of Match Factory
films screening during the festival.) While not without flaws, Layla Fourie is consistently
bracing. Recommended for who prefer
their cinema without any extraneous sentimentality, it screens this Sunday (10/6)
at the Egyptian Theatre as part of this year’s German Currents.
Labels: German Currents '13