Movie Review: Vlugtig

Based on a short film of the same name, Vlugtig or Briefly explores an actor’s workshop staged at a cabin in the woods after an up-and-coming actor is invited to join the cast of world-renowned theatre director’s Red Riding Hood reinvention. While the short film cut to the chase like a movie trailer, the feature directed by Marinus Gubitz takes more time to introduce budding actor, Simon, whose pantomime acting gig makes way for a much meatier role.

Retaining the focus on a trio comprised of director, actor and actress, this psychological thriller toys with the art of performance as an eccentric megalomaniac fosters a boot camp atmosphere. Reminiscent of Hard Candy’s nimble and modern reworking of the Red Riding Hood fairy tale, Vlugtig retains the predatory theme and the state of flux between the characters. Rehearsing scenes, coaching his actors and taking an experimental approach to summoning soulful performances, boundaries are broken and lives are changed forever.

Arno Greeff and Ernst Van Wyk reprise their roles from the Vlugtig short film with Jane de Wet’s haunting beauty adding another dimension to the drama as Mila Guy’s worthy substitute. Greeff manages a difficult balancing act, asked to play an inexperienced actor in the throes of a major overhaul. Van Wyk picks up where he left off in the short film, given more space to embellish his egotistical artistic temperament in the vein of Hitchcock’s sentiment that actors are effectively “cattle”.

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“Sure, but how much wood does a woodcutter cut?”

Reveling in the political and relational situational tension, Vlugtig thrives when its teetering on the edge of role reversal. While the film still encompasses the short film’s major turning points, Vlugtig’s extrapolation doesn’t feel stretched thin, able to anchor the lead character and compose value-adding bookends. There are quieter moments that could have probably been more economical but this developmental time adds scope.

The film’s haunting tone, isolated cabin in the woods setting and unpredictable atmosphere creates the perfect conditions for a taut psychological thriller. Leaning on solid performances, a sense of character history and teasing out a precarious situation, this intimate, thoughtful and even contemplative human drama is prickly enough to keep you guessing as an inhibited young actor is coaxed out of hiding and put through a trial by fire. Serving as a well-balanced adaptation of the short film, it captures the essence of the original, and while modest, does enough to justify its new standing as a feature film.

The bottom line: Intense