Triomf (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner14/05/2010

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 118 mins

Despite its satirical intentions, Triomf never quite works, because it's impossible to care about any of its repulsive characters, while the supposedly funny moments are uncomfortable and feel too much like being asked to point and laugh at the stupid rednecks.

What's it all about?
Directed by Michael Raeburn, Triomf is loosely based on the novel by Marlene van Niekerk and set in Triomf, a poor white suburb of Johannesburg that was built on the ruins of the bulldozed mixed race community of Sophiatown. On the eve of the historic 1994 elections, redneck fridge repairman Treppie Benade (Lionel Newton) is more preoccupied with hiring a hooker (Pam Andrews) to sleep with his hulking, slow-witted nephew Lambert (Eduan van Jaarsveldt), even though Lambert regularly satisfies his sexual needs with, um, his mother, Mol (Vanessa Cooke), a situation that doesn't seem to bother his father, Pop (Paul Luckhoff).

The Good
The tone for Triomf is set early on, as within five minutes Lambert is angrily having sex with his (apparently willing) mother while asking her to shout out plot details from Star Wars and Terminator 2 (“Metalman is melting!”) as the family dog humps his leg. While the rest of the film never quite hits those heights (or plumbs those depths, depending on your point of view), what follows is essentially two hours of hanging out with deeply repulsive characters.

That said, the performances are good (particularly Newton) and the film does have a couple of inspired moments, most notably a presumably deliberate Chinatown parody in the climactic revelation scene.

The Bad
The film's biggest problem is that none of the characters are remotely likeable and there's never a glimpse of humanity that might persuade you to care about them (imagine Shameless with multiple, incestuous Frank Gallaghers and you're halfway there). Similarly, despite the film's obvious satirical intentions (i.e. the imminent obliteration of the racist, apartheid-fuelled era of Afrikaner power) and a handful of amusingly sweary lines, most of the humour is deeply uncomfortable as it constantly feels like you're being asked to point and laugh at the stupid, racist rednecks and their comedy incest.

Worth seeing?
Triomf has its moments but its deeply repulsive characters ensure that it's never as funny as it should be and it's ultimately too savagely sadistic to really work as a black comedy.

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Content updated: 20/10/2017 22:42

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