A fog of flatulence

They don’t make any Afrikaans movies for a decade, then two come along in one year. And, bizarrely, they both feature full-grown adults pretending to be schoolboys — the lugubrious drama Ouma se Slim Kind and, this week, the crass comedy Poena is Koning.

The makers of Poena is Koning appear to have attempted to out-gross Leon Schuster — and I mean “out-gross” in both senses. One, they want to make more money than Schuster; two, they’re going about it by being as gross as humanly possible. There are so many farting, pissing-in-your-pants, shitting-in-your-pants and getting-things-stuck-up-your-bum jokes in Poena is Koning that it makes American Pie look like Last Year at Marienbad.

The story breaks roughly into two halves. The first part is a sort of sex farce, the second is a would-be-heart-warming tale about Poena going for his dream — to become a pop star. Poena is played by Robbie Wessels, who is apparently already a pop star in the Afrikaans market. He’s like an even less attractive version of Steve Hofmeyr, if that is imaginable. (Hofmeyr at least displays some of what Ronald Suresh Roberts fondly calls “native intelligence”.)

Poena and his friend Vaatjie (Gerhard Odendaal) are just about to complete high school. And it’s high time, too — from the way they look, it seems they’ve been in grade 12 for about 15 years. Desperate to lose their virginities, they are being tormented by a sexy schoolteacher (Perlé van Schalkwyk). She looks and acts like one of those women you can get a picture of on your cellphone via SMS, as advertised so lavishly on e.tv. In other words, she’s an utter cartoon of blow-up-doll Barbie lasciviousness.

This all leads to some farcical stuff with chubby Poena hanging naked out of windows and so on, not to mention the ridiculously stereotyped moffies who supply some supporting action. But there’s also a potential girlfriend to be dealt with, and, to add some alleged social comment to the humour, there is a rant about affirmative action (from Poena’s dad) and another about the present government (from the headmaster; this bit is actually amusing, probably because it’s done by veteran actor Ben Kruger).

Before it flips into an aspirational kind of drama about Poena becoming a pop star, at which point we are supposed to laugh less and care more, the movie is a veritable fog of flatulence. I didn’t find the first part funny or the second part heart-warming, but then I suppose I’m not the intended audience. I shudder to think who the intended audience is, but the filmmakers must presume it’s out there. There’s something about the single-minded chutzpah of the whole project that is vaguely admirable — making the most anally centred Afrikaans comedy ever.

I doubt the filmmakers were thinking about this, but an investigation into what the name “Poena” might actually mean reveals that it is the name of the Roman goddess of punishment, hence English words such as “punitive”, “penalty” and “subpoena”. Watching Poena is Koning is certainly punishment of a very special kind. I don’t know why they didn’t just call the main characters Poep and Gat.

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