UFF Review: Derick Muller’s Debut Found Footage Film ‘Wesens’ Tackles Big Topics
A brief disclaimer momentarily flashes across the screen revealing the origin of the film’s footage to be a collector who purchased a box of 8mm and 16mm film dating back to 1967 from a deceased estate, before dropping viewers right into the first reel of director Derick Muller’s debut film Wesens. The first ten or so minutes all take place in a sedan containing four government investigators on their way to what a local farmer is claiming to be a UFO crash site while debating science, technology, religion, and politics over the course of the twenty mile ride out to the farm. This serves as a great introduction to the characters and by the time they turn the radio on for the intro music to begin, the viewer already has a very firm grasp on what kind of outlook these men possess thanks to excellent performances supporting Muller’s smartly crafted script. There’s a highly apparent divide between the older, more conservative officials in the front seat and the younger, more progressive researchers operating the cameras from the back seat; cleverly established dynamics which become quite exacerbated by stress later in the narrative.
The conversation shifts to the matter at hand upon the team’s arrival at the farm where Sakkie (Albert Maritz, Invictus) is awaiting them alongside Officer Botha (Pierre Nelson in his debut role), the local police officer who first arrived at the scene before calling for an investigation. After the Major (Morne Visser, The Kissing Booth) formally introduces everyone he asks Sakkie to tell the story of his encounter with the UFO on camera, for documentation purposes. A clearly rattled Sakkie recounts how he blasted the object out of the sky the night before with his shotgun but didn’t investigate the crash site across the farm until the next morning, where he found the exterior was still warm. After detailing these events he leads the investigators to the crash site and for another scenic ride, though this time the men are much more silent as they prepare for what’s to come. Vast amounts of landscape shots from the moving car really help sell the sense of isolation and display just how remote the location is, further feeding into the slow burn tension that’s already began steadily building by this point.
Upon arriving at the crash site they’re greeted by a boulder-shaped object sitting cleanly in dirt and no sooner than the men exit the vehicle, they begin scanning the area with a Geiger counter. After detecting light radiation that assures them the situation is serious they send an angry Sakkie and fearful Officer Botha back to the farm house to wait out the testing phase. The team equips the proper protective gear before splitting up to begin their investigation: “Staff” Sergeant Brink (Rayno Von Schlicht in his debut role) accompanies the major mark the perimeter while Kuyper (Pietie Beyers, Skemerson) and Conradie (Conradie Van Heerden, Laastes), a weapons engineer and chemist, start examining the specimen. It’s only moments before Kuyper is drawn into what seems to be a hypnotic trance by the object, prompting him to remove his mask and embrace it’s cold surface. He’s immediately tackled by the Major and subsequently scolded, though not long after he’s “recovered” Staff is sprayed by an unidentified liquid emitted by the specimen causing him to instantly fall ill.
After Staff’s on-foot departure to seek help things continue to slowly escalate until the remaining men’s personalities completely implode on one another, leading to an unexpectedly powerful and deep finale that treads down a path relatively untouched by predecessors within the subgenre. To top it off, the use of traditional Afrikaans music (entirely diegetic, by the way) adds a special charm to the scenes where it’s present and the historic South African setting feels refreshingly unexplored; these aspects both add a unique regional flair to the film that empowers the storytelling. All of these elements unite to make for a truly one-of-a-kind experience that fans of found footage and slow-burn, hard-hitting sci-fi won’t want to miss. You can embrace the other side for yourself when Wesens releases, and you’ll find a trailer below to get an idea of what you’re in for.