Modder en Bloed is a movie with a historical narrative set in 1901 during the Anglo Boer war. The direct English translation which is Mud and Blood does make rhyming sense but the preferable Blood and Glory would be a more captivating and fitting English title for the movie. The theme is a familiar one as there have other been movies that symbolizes conflict with the British to a cricket match (Lagaan) or a football match between inmates and guards (The Longest Yard). Regardless of the historical message it’s a typical “root for the underdog” movie.
The movie is set in a prisoner-of-war camp on the island of St. Helena run by Colonel Swannell (Grant Swanby). A Colonel who would rather drown these prisoners in the Atlantic Ocean than have to endure running the concentration camp. His hatred for the Afrikaners boils over into his imperial duties by his daily mistreatment of the prisoners which does not go unnoticed by his fellow Brits.
When a failed attempt at escaping seals the fate of two prisoners, the officers of the camp decide make an example out of them in the yard with an execution. This brutal exhibition in front of all the inmates is the catalyst that springs Willem Morkel (Stian Bam), a rather passive prisoner into action by negotiating with the officers to wager their lives on the outcome of a rugby match. The plan just might be crazy enough to work but he needs to motivate his downtrodden fellow inmates to learn the sport and endure more strife from the guards. The rugby match gives the prisoners an opportunity to enact revenge on their tyrannical captors.
On face value I would not say the movie’s appeal is for everyone, what with it being an Afrikaans war drama involving rugby, but it unfolded on screen as a showcase for SA’s acting and directing talent portraying a combination of humour, tragedy and drama. It would be unfair to dismiss the movie as just another dreary war story.
Director Sean Else showed the right level of empathy for the characters without becoming overly dramatic. Cinematography and costume design was stark which complimented the emotion of the story. Charlotte Salt and Stian Bam delivered excellent performances in which their characters contrasted each other and were able to highlight their strengths on screen.
Despite being made for the Afrikaans movie market, the movie has equal portions of English and Afrikaans dialogue. The emotional range of the cast is tested both on and off the field as the story portrays a universal message. Overall, the movie was enjoyable to watch as a feel good movie despite not knowing the historical context as you cheer for the Boer’s to beat the English at their own game.
Last Updated: September 1, 2016