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Film / The Forgiven

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The Forgiven is a 2017 drama film directed by Roland Joffe and starring Forrest Whitaker and Eric Bana.

In 1996, Desmond Tutu is the chair of the South African Truth and Reconciliation. He has received letters from Piet Blomfeld, a member of the South African security police during apartheid and goes to meet with him. Bloofeld is an unrepentant racist who insults the archbishop, but the Archbishop begins to suspect that Blomfeld has answers about the murder of an activist and her boyfriend and so tries to get Blomfeld to confess. However, there are forces at work that wish for the truth to remain hidden.

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  • Abusive Parents: Piet's father Rian is revealed to have been one.
  • Berserk Button: For most of the interviews Blomfeld is smug and arrogant in his insults. However he shows genuine rage when the Archbishop shows him a photo of his childhood friend, which he had kept for all those years.
  • Break the Haughty: Happens to Linda Coetzee. When we first meet her she's at best casually racist and dismissive of how bad Apartheid really was. In the end she's forced to see her husband get dragged before the commission and hear his detailed confession about how he helped torture and murder a bunch of teenagers. The experience ultimately causes her to become a better person.
  • Bystander Syndrome: The wife of Hansi Coetzee (one of Piet Blomfeld's fellow death squad members) ultimately admits that she had this in regards to the crimes committed by the Apartheid regime.
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  • Forgiveness: A major theme of the movie
  • Freudian Excuse: Blomfeld is ultimately revealed to have a rather tragic one. It turns out that when he was a child he had been friends with a young black girl. His father, a racist even by the standards of apartheid South Africa, didn't approve and ultimately murdered the girl and her entire family when Piet disobeyed him by sneaking out before beating him so badly his arm was broken. After they moved to Zimbabwe, Piet was sent to a boarding school......while his family was wiped out presumably as retaliation for his father's crime. In order to escape his own self loathing Blomfeld redirected that hatred to black people.
  • Gory Discretion Shot: We don't see the murder of Piet's friend from childhood but we hear the gunshots and see little Piet cuddling in fear.
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  • Heel–Face Turn: While Blomfeld doesn't fully overcome his racism before his death, he DOES ultimately make the decision to confess to his atrocities. He also has an Odd Friendship with Benjamin and even leaves Benjamin money.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Blomfeld. When we first meet him he's an evil contemptible asshole. When we learn more about him it becomes clear that his racism is a way to escape his own self blame and hatred for causing the deaths of both his only friend and her family AND his own.
  • Karma Houdini: Unusually we never see Francois arrested on screen, though presumably he is punished offscreen (since Piet named him in his confession).
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Blomfeld qualifies, as does Francois Schmidt
  • Predecessor Villain: Rian Blomfeld died years ago but his actions are what ultimately set the plot in motion.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Blomfeld's decision to confess ultimately results in Francois engineering his murder.
  • Tragic Villain: Blomfeld is ultimately revealed to be one.
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