Mother, I Am Suffocating. This Is My Last Film About You
Thato Khobotle, Mercy Koetle, Pheku Lisema
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…sheer uncompromising bleakness and haunting strangeness.
A title like that certainly demands one’s attention. And while this film itself is not consistently fascinating, it’s worth seeing for its sheer uncompromising bleakness and haunting strangeness.
The focus is, broadly, on a young woman carrying a huge cross in a Lesotho village. As she trudges – and occasionally stumbles – along, we observe the panoply of rural life from one remove, the mixed-down and sometimes distorted sound adding to our sense of alienation. The style is expressionistic and the tone utterly despairing.
What really hits home, though, is the voice-over commentary. We’re told about a relatively idyllic past. “And then religion came” – and with it the onset of puritanism, and the abolition of secular books, music and even laughter. The titular ‘mother’ would appear to refer not only to a literal human one, but also implicitly to a mother tongue and mother country. But whoever or whatever is being addressed, the disaffection itself is extreme and boldly stated. There’s no mistaking the angst in a line such as “Men you placed as gods among us circle above our heads like vultures”.
There are some longueurs here, and Mother I Am Suffocating seems a tad more than its modest 76 minutes. The lack of any onscreen dialogue, and the occasional use of slow motion, don’t help in that regard. But there are compensations for the minuses: gorgeous B&W cinematography… stark but beautiful imagery… the surreality of its closing section… And, most of all, there is considerable power in its bitter and furious tone. Where a European equivalent might have been pompous and pretentious, this poetic cri-de-coeur packs a punch.