The Bird Can’t Fly

The Bird Can’t Fly (2007) is, at first, a strange movie to absorb. So much is unexplained and you wonder if the steep learning curve is worth it. I’m writing this to say, emphatically, YES.
This is the first directing effort of Threes Anna (she also co-wrote it) from the Netherlands and I look forward to her next film Silent City and all future endeavours.
When you let this film in, it begins to haunt. You have to see it again almost immediately because there is so much you missed. I don’t want to explain too much of the plot since experiencing it for yourself is so crucial, so I’ll give some impressions.
First, the beautiful acting. Every member of the cast, even the children, are fabulous. Barbara Hershey superbly plays Melody who appears so serene and controlled, almost inhumanly so, at the opening of the movie but changes so dramatically by the end. Yusuf Davids (Melody’s grandson River) is riveting. When he’s on the screen (especially in his ‘Lord of the Flies’ element) you have to watch him. All the characters are unique from all the strong women which fill this movie to the skill of Tony Kgoroge (Scoop) and John Kani (Stone) who are the adult men.
Fairlands, South Africa, is the setting of most of the film. This was a diamond mining town which is being progressively buried by desert. The resort hotel, where Melody once worked, has only it’s roof and sign still exposed. The people still living there exist in huts that are drab at first but become more colourful as we learn more about the people who live in them. A truth most travellers learn.
One of the most beautiful transitions that I missed the first time (but Karen spotted right away) was the little girl’s doll. I’m not sure who the actor is (perhaps Amanda Dilma?) but what an amazing performance from such a young and beautiful girl. River demands rope of his feral band of conspiratorial children and this girl, whose seeming only possession is a doll, pulls it’s hair out and braids it. Then she replaces the hair with ostrich feathers. Doll with hair, Doll with no hair, Doll with feathers. It’s easy to miss but… wow, it’s a gorgeous symbol for the loss and then rejuvenation that we’re witness to here!
Very highly recommended. An important movie for anyone sensitive.

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