Talking Movies: Toorbos, I Am Greta and Narcissus & Goldmund

Spling reviews Toorbos, I Am Greta and Narcissus & Goldmund as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.


Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about a period romance drama, a climate change documentary and a medieval adventure drama.

Starting off with a film now on circuit…


A young forest woman and her community in Knysna are uprooted in the 1930s.

Writer-Director: Rene van Rooyen

Stars: Elani Dekker, Stiaan Smith and Ira Blanckenberg

– Adapted from one of Dalene Matthee’s novels, Toorbos is one of the most mature and quietly powerful films to come out of South Africa.
– This coming-of-age romance drama and psychological character study could be described as a blend of My Fair Lady, The Grapes of Wrath and Atonement.
– Still timely even by today’s standards, Toorbos grapples with Karoliena’s identity as a wildling, her deep connection with nature, her role as a woman, the memory of her late father and her quest for personal freedom.
– The focus of this windswept romance drama is on Karoliena and Dekker’s fresh face, natural charm and immersive performance keep you transfixed with a strong supporting cast.
– A strong visual aesthetic and a poetic tone bring the literature to life, using invisible effects to realise the story’s enigmatic quality.
– The sweeping visuals transport you to the 1930s, the stripped down yet effective mis-en-scene anchors you in the bygone era and the immersion is completed via a magical soundtrack.
– Swathing the audience in classic narratives, dexterously handling the socio-economic and political backdrop and compelling audiences on a rewarding emotional journey, van Rooyen has delivered a masterpiece.
– Toorbos is somewhat restrained by its modest budget and there are a few story transitions that could have used more polish, but this dark horse of a film’s rich insights, immersive quality and steady control make it an all-rounder and a must-see.

An excellent 8 on the splingometer!

Moving on to a documentary screening as part of the European Film Festival…


Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg leads an international crusade to get people to listen to scientists about the world’s environmental problems.

Director: Nathan Grossman

– Thunberg has a viral quality to her fearless activism, creating a legion of inspired wannabes and a peanut gallery of eye-rolling enemies.
– Her Asperger’s helps her cut through the clouds to the science and culture of inaction around environmental issues that have become a political kickball.
– This fly-on-the-wall documentary is a story of urgency, mission and zeal, starting with her solo picket protest outside Sweden’s parliament to her cross-Atlantic voyage to speak in New York.
– I Am Greta is an experiential documentary and character study that addresses the climate crisis from the perspective of a teenage girl who has become the mascot for climate change.
– Burdened with the responsibility of campaigning in the face of death threats and disdain, her voice carries the power and frustration of the next generation.
– Avoiding the bar graph lecture style of An Inconvenient Truth, I Am Greta leads by example with Thunberg walking the walk by reducing her carbon footprint, eating sustainably and avoiding air travel at all costs.
– Alienated by her peers, defying her shy predisposition and doing everything in her power to keep it together as emotional and physical exhaustion threaten to overwhelm, she and her father travel the world as she petitions current leaders, you and I.
– Full access footage of hotels and conferences document this incredible journey for the young girl with a far-reaching influence, powerful voice and no-nonsense approach.

A solid 7 on the splingometer!

And finally an adventure drama screening at the European Film Festival…


A student befriends a young monk at a monastery before embarking on a journey to discover the meaning of life.

Writer-Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky

Stars: Jannis Niewöhner, Sabin Tambrea and Henriette Confurius

– Hermann Hesse’s literary masterpiece has been adapted to film in what could be described as The Name of the Rose meets Blue Lagoon.
– It’s a rather strange retelling, trying to adopt the novel’s tonal qualities in an uneasy mix of raunchy comedy and adventure instead of spiritual enlightenment.
– Narcissus and Goldmund is reminiscent of The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared in its fantastic interpretation.
– The storytelling flashbacks may work for the book but the visual gymnastics are distracting and comical.
– Set in medieval times, the film functions like an irreverent Canterbury Tales inside joke as a prodigal student sows his wild oats.
– The locations and wardrobe are appealing as the characters find themselves at the foreground of castles, monasteries and forests.
– The casting is also strong, finding suitable young and older versions of the lead characters and a broad ensemble of monks, gypsies, daughters and tradesmen.
– While the film has an epic quality to the visuals, it’s tarnished by an incongruent soundtrack and campy comedic episodes.
– What should have been a noble quest with dramatic heft and substance, falls prey to its costume comedy and awkward “pool boy” romance.

A flat 5 on the splingometer!

So just to wrap up…

TOORBOS… strong performances, excellent casting, poetic visuals, stirring themes and masterful storytelling compel this beautiful period romance drama… An excellent 8!

I AM GRETA… this climate crisis documentary is an experiential and intimate fly-on-the-wall character study of urgency and mission… A solid 7!

NARCISSUS AND GOLDMUND… while promising, this colourful, tonally-challenged and irreverent adaptation struggles to find the right balance… A flat 5!

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