The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)

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Released 16-Mar-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Menu Audio
Featurette-Journey To Nyae Nyae
Gallery-Photo-Baraka School Photos
Trailer-Born Free, Living Free, Running Free
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 104:22
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (50:48) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Jamie Uys
Studio
Distributor
C.A.T.
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Marius Weyers
Sandra Prinsloo
N!xau
Louw Verwey
Michael Thys
Nic De Jager
Fanyana H. Sidumo
Joe Seakatsie
Brian O'Shaughnessy
Vera Blacker
Ken Gampu
Paddy O'Byrne
Jamie Uys
Case ?
RPI Box Music John Boshoff


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Italian
Spanish
Dutch
Arabic
Czech
Danish
Finnish
Greek
Hebrew
Hindi
Hungarian
Icelandic
Norwegian
Polish
Portuguese
Swedish
Turkish
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     This is the film that saved a local cinema in my home town. It was a lonely independent theatre, struggling against the burgeoning multiplex machine when, with virtually no publicity or fanfare, this little South African gem slipped quietly into town. Word of mouth started almost instantaneously, and suddenly it was THE film to see. The queues went around the block and the cash registers were ringing a very merry tune indeed. Soon, the "little cinema that could" was festooned in fresh paint and a plush new interior and, I'm delighted to say that all these years later that cinema still exists, and is still gloriously independent.

     Well, it was back in those halcyon days of the 80s that I last saw The Gods Must Be Crazy and, while I was keen to revisit this old friend, my memories of it were somewhat faint. What I remembered was the Coke bottle (of course), the wild scenes of the Kalahari desert, and the light-hearted slapstick feel. But memories are tricky, mythical creatures that are elusive and often transitory. How would I now, 20 years later, find this film? I confess to suffering that common complaint, "reviewer's procrastination" - which is an insidious disease that can make a reviewer a bit hesitant to embark on a tour down dusty synaptic channels, bringing treasured old memories into a harsher contemporary light. Finally, bolstered by my husband's comforting presence, we embarked on the trek on the weekend.

     Ahh! That's right - it begins with that wonderfully soothing, oh-so-BBC narration of the idyllic lifestyle of the Kalahari Bushmen. Their simplicity, their lack of avariciousness, their contentment - their fantastic, isolated contentment. And there's the beautifully-faced Xixo, played by the impossibly named N!xau. Very quickly my husband Sel and I found ourselves once again completely bathed in the sweetness and innocence of this delightful story.

     Part quasi-documentary, part farce, part philosophical treatise, this is still a unique little cinematic treasure. The splendid isolation of the Bushmen's life is radically interrupted when a light plane flies over their contented settlement. The pilot casually flicks an empty Coke bottle out of his window which spins elaborately to earth. For the Bushmen, this artefact is a revelation. Harder than any substance they've ever encountered before, and eminently more useful, the Kalahari natives have a whirlwind private industrial revolution as they discover the myriad uses for this miraculous and mysterious object. Surely it must be a gift from the gods. However, the gods - as every culture knows - are capricious beings, and the playthings of gods can frequently become devils' bargains. This magical artefact is remarkable and desirable, but it breeds dissent and disharmony amongst the tribe, introducing greed and violence to their previously innocent world. When quarrels over the divine icon lead to bloodshed, Xixo decides that, for all its preciousness, this powerful object must be returned to its owners. He must go to the edge of the world to return it to the gods.

     Meanwhile, in bustling Jo'berg, one disgruntled journalist, Kate Thompson (Sandra Prinsloo) decides that the antidote to her disgruntlement with the rat race is to accept a teaching post in a remote Botswana school. When the Reverend (none other than writer, director, and editor Jamie Uys), who was charged with her transportation finds his vehicle inferior to the challenge, he implores his friend, the brilliant scientist Andrew Steyn (Marius Weyers) to abandon his elephant dung analyses to rescue the damsel and whisk her to her posting.

     There are just a couple of problems with this plan. First - the only vehicle available for this mission of mercy has a few minor deficiencies like no brakes, a lack of hinged doors and no reliable starter motor. If it starts, it'd better not stop again, as there's virtually no hope of reignition. Further, Steyn, who is remarkably capable and intelligent when in the field, is an absolute moron when confronted by ladies; with the problem exponentially compounded according to the particular lady's beauty. Thompson is of course very beautiful. Oh, yes - and there's also the minor problem of a band of bandits enacting random acts of terrorism, hiding out in the bush and on a collision course with all of our heroes.

     To expand on the plot would be superfluous exposition to the converted and churlish spoiling to those who haven't yet enjoyed this pleasure. Suffice it to say that this is a unique, playful and sentimental little story whose handmade style is utterly charming, whose slapstick delivery bows deeply to Buster Keaton and whose humour is warm, homespun, light and yet movingly profound.

     This is a film with no pretensions to the "invisible hand of production." Every clunky edit, obvious reverse of the film, jump cut and set-up keeps us inside the joke. Uys' one-man-band film offering lovingly blends Kalahari legend (I've tried very hard to see if rhinos really do put out fires - I can neither confirm nor deny this after all my research), an "East meets West" storyline, a charming little love story, absolute slapstick and some simply profound and rich observations about our commonalities and differences as human beings in different cultures. While much has been made about the anthropological inaccuracies about the Bushmen's culture so confidently averred by the narrator, I always thought this was an allegorical story rather than a factual one. It contrasts the intelligence of living close to nature against the dependency that living in a technological society imposes.

     Mostly, I detest slapstick - or at least the way slapstick is modernly represented - entire shelves of china crashing down on the hapless anti-hero simply makes me cringe. But this is true, pure slapstick. It is humour derived from how helpless we are when the "gods" conspire to make the tools we rely upon turn against us. It is gentle, true and human. This is ennobling, warm and kind cinema. And perhaps that's why a mid 80s world, suffering from a "greed is good" mentality, came in droves to be balmed by this simple, humanising story.

     Now, 20 years later, that balm still salves a spiritual wound or two.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.

     The film stock really shows its age in this transfer. Mercifully, there's no low level noise, and it's bright enough to pass muster. Shadow detail is quite acceptable.

     Colour is rather lovely in this transfer. There are true whites, and rich blacks - great overexposed sweeps of the desert and richer, warmer colours in shadier places.

     There are certain MPEG artefacts present that are probably to be expected with a film of this age. Grain levels are rather high at times; there are plenty of film splice jumps and several splice markers present. Aliasing is well and truly present throughout. Film to video artefacts are also prevalent - particularly dust and scratches.

    Subtitles are clear, timely and accurate, but they divulge little about the glorious click language of the Kalaharians. Only rarely are we offered full exposition of their remarkable language.

     This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 50:48. It is almost imperceptible and is an excellent change.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     There are three audio tracks on this DVD. The default is English Dolby Digital 2.0, but there are also offerings in German Dolby Digital 2.0 and Hungarian Dolby Digital 2.0. Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. I only listened to the English version.

     The dialogue quality was far from excellent. It whooped, warped and distorted throughout - although mostly the actual words were discernible. Sadly, audio sync was also sub-par.

    The music was light, bright and cheesy - and that was perfect for this kind of handmade film.

    There was absolutely no surround or subwoofer activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     This is the DUMBEST extras offering I've EVER seen for an apparently global release. I'll explain my vitriol after the Menu discussion.

Menu

     The menu design is themed around the movie. It is 16x9 enhanced. The main menu features an animated clip from the movie and an audio background.

Journey to Nyae Nyae

     This is the silliest extra I've EVER seen! This should have been an incredibly moving return to meeting N!xau some years after the outrageous success of The Gods Must Be Crazy made him the most famous South African actor the world ever knew. Sure, N!xau was there - looking much older, and sad to say, somewhat sicker, but the only subtitle overlaid over his exquisite click language is French! Now, my husband Sel is rather impressed that I could, with my ridiculous schoolgirl remembrances, translate to him the gist of what was being said. But, if you're not trying to find a new way to impress your spouse, or are unable to draw on your dim-remembered language classes, this is indefensible. What is a truly beautiful and poignant little feature becomes meaningless. Très stupide!

Baraka School Pictures

     9 still shots from the previous featurette - and if you've never spoken French, the closest you'll get to making sense of the previous offering.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     This seems to have come directly from the North American stock, so ladies and gentlemen, choose your Region.

Summary

     Well, you know what you like - if you've seen this before, I doubt time will have disappointed you. If you're new to this, take your sophistication off, chill out, and enjoy. This is the simplest, sweetest pleasure you're likely to find.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Mirella Roche-Parker (read my bio)
Saturday, March 20, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSinger SGD-001, using S-Video output
DisplayTeac 76cm Widescreen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationTeac 5.1 integrated system
SpeakersTeac 5.1 integrated system

Other Reviews
DVD Net - Anthony Clarke

Comments (Add)
French subtitle - cztery
Regarding the subtitles - cztery
But does the no English subtitles also apply to region 1 ? - cztery
It does but the region one version also has the sequel. - cztery