From 1987 to 1993 the Ballade vir “n Enkeling TV series drew South African
audiences in with its gripping story, intriguing characters and epic soundtrack. On
20 March 2015 the film adaptation, produced by The Film Factory, released in South
Africa to the delight of fans of the original show as well as those enticed by its
legacy and a revamped star-studded cast.
Originally told over two series, the story has all the makings of a brilliant mystery –
love, action, suspense, plot twists, lust, betrayal and danger. Staying true to this
was important for director Quentin Krog and producer Danie Bester, but with
towering audience expectations for the film, creating the cinematic version meant
enriching the movie with modern elements while trusting their instincts as
Breathing new life
Aside from a sturdy narrative foundation, what makes Ballade vir “n Enkeling that
much more engaging is its ability to speak to a new audience and a generation
which has advanced immensely since the late 80s. Each production discipline
applied different modern nuances to deliver an end product which is fresh, slick and
Krog believes that 21st century audiences are conditioned to films with a faster
rhythm and pace, and so a lot of effort was put into tightening the story structure
and stripping away unnecessary elements and characters. The film also
incorporates modern tech such as tablets, computers and smartphones, and is set in
the trendy and upcoming Maboneng precinct in Johannesburg.
Wardrobe and production designers Marle and Waldemar Coetzee took inspiration
from current colour palettes which were then applied in their design aesthetic.
“We also played with some nice VFX elements, which can be seen when Carina does
her research and work on computers. DOP Tom Marais and I also worked out some
pretty nifty scene transitions which came out beautifully, most of them being in-
camera effects with a bit of assistance from VFX designer Quinn Lubbe,’ says Krog.
One aspect which stayed close to its initial style was the film’s score and musical
tone, which both Bester and Krog felt strongly about. “The music played a very
important role in the original show and we used original elements and reworked
some from the original show. The music is one of the many highlights of the film,’
comments Bester. Iconic hits from the old series – Ballade vir “n Enkeling, Tussen
Treine and Voshaarnooi are included and revived in the remake.
Ballade vir n Enkeling follows three friends as they journey through frivolous youth,
misadventure, the process of growing up, and coming to terms with who they are
as adults. Main character Jacques Rynhard, played by Gavin van den Berg in the TV
series and Armand Aucamp in the film, is a missing writer who is pursued by
journalist Carina Human, originally played by Karin Retief and more recently
Donnalee Roberts. In her relentless pursuit of the truth, Carina uncovers buried
secrets, a possible love triangle and an unscrupulous villain.
Lelia Etsebeth was responsible for casting the film, which according to Bester, was
the most challenging part of production. “There were so many variables to consider
in matching the characters in the present and the past and retaining performance
intensity and energy between time periods. I think Lelia Etsebeth did the most
unbelievable job in guiding the process and staying true to a very difficult brief. We
ended up with an amazing cast who blew life into the spirit of a new Ballade.’
Allowing the film to resonate with a contemporary audience also required Krog to
adjust his directorial approach. “Performance style has changed considerably over
30 years and I tended to direct the actors more towards realism than the
melodramatic style of old,’ he adds.
“Moenie dink nie, doen net’
Leon van Nierop, who wrote the original TV series and novel, created the
screenplay for Ballade vir “n Enkeling, which was shot over five-and-a-half weeks in
August and September 2014 in Johannesburg, Kragbron, Pretoria and Buffelspoort.
“There was always a lot of pressure on us to do justice to the original TV show,’
says Bester, who believes the real power of the film lies in its story essence and
not the era from where it came.
“We wanted to tell the timeless story of friendship, love, family and betrayal, and
we felt it was classic narrative for any age. I think we were very successful and
Leon did an amazing job adapting the original series and his novel into a feature
“To me, this was about the journey of a friendship between three friends, so I made
sure that the script and the performances reflected that,’ says Krog. “My strategy in
meeting and exceeding expectations was just to rely on my own instincts and
expectations (which are really high anyway) and make a movie that I would want to
– Carly Barnes