The beautiful sadness that is Nêrens, Noord-Kaap
Nêrens, Noord-Kaap is a remarkable drama series that offers an almost palpable nostalgic familiarity, thanks to the majestic but arid and ruthless plains of the Northern Cape as backdrop. It is a beautifully shot series, with the landscapes doing their part to help tell the story of the Adendorff family on their farm, Nêrens.
Farmer and patriarch, Lourens Adendorff (Frank Opperman) wants to hand over the reins of Nêrens to two of his three adult sons, but we also quickly come to realise that there is a sad backstory – Lourens’s wife, Katja (Tinarie van Wyk-Loots), passed away a decade ago. The handing over of the farm comes with ulterior motives – Lourens doesn’t want to feel trapped in the middle of nowhere all by himself.
Meet the brothers
As far as the boys are concerned, there is Andries (De Klerk Oelofse), the youngest of the three and apple of his father’s eye. He is the most sensitive of the sons, with an artistic streak and a passion for photography – not exactly the qualities you look for in a hardened Karoo farmer. His father is also aware of his dreams of traveling the world and agreed to assist him financially.
Frans (Geon Nel) is the oldest son and seems to be the closest to the earth, land and farming, He seems to be mostly in changes of affairs on the farm alongside his dad, but when the day arrives for the middle brother to get married on the farm, it transpires that even Frans, the most likely candidate, doesn’t really want to stay on the farm – he was planning on following his girlfriend to Cape Town to study.
This brings us to Ronnie (Albert Pretorius) – the middle child and black sheep of the family. The story of Nêrens, Noord-Kaap kicks off on the farm, the day of Ronnie’s wedding to (god forbid) an English woman and it seems that it is one of those marriages that had to happen because they had a child out of wedlock. The wedding also serves as the perfect opportunity to baptise their son, seeing that friends and family are already conveniently on the farm. To make matters worse, Ronnie is a full-blown alcoholic and a constant source of tension and embarrassment to everyone around him. At least his son was named after his grandfather, Lourens.
When inheritance gets ugly
It comes as no surprise to anyone that Lourens hands over the farm to Frans and Andries while Ronnie gets his share in the form of cash to enjoy his new life with this new wife and son in Cape Town, saved from being stuck on Nêrens by his own incompetence and uselessness.
Andries, on the other hand, wants absolutely nothing to do with the farm and is furious that his father went back on his word. Feeling betrayed, he asks Frans to give him money so he can leave the farm. Clouded by disappointment and anger, he doesn’t know or care where he’s headed to. “Away from here” is good enough for him.
This leaves Frans alone on the farm with his father and Maggie (Ilse Klink), the domestic worker who, over the last decade, has played mother to the boys in Katja’s absence. Her son, Jan-Jan (Dean Balie), who grew up with the boys as their best friend, and his family are also left on the farm.
Today, 10 years later
Fast forward another decade and things don’t seem to have improved. Frans is still in charge of the family farm but he and his father are not on speaking terms. Lourens is cooped up in the house, and barely leaves his room. Andries regularly sends postcards back to the farm from all over the world. Predictably, Ronnie’s life has fallen apart – he is drunk most of the time and lives in a dirty, messy house somewhere in suburban Cape Town. He only gets to see his son over weekends while his ex-wife has moved on with her life.
The family seems in tatters and the farm stagnates, day in, day out. But somehow the three estranged brothers find their way back to their family farm where all the secrets, sadness and truth about their mother’s death stands in the way of redemption.
There are constant flashbacks to the boys’ childhoods, when their imaginative and nurturing Dutch mother was still alive. With her made-up fairy tales that she loved to act out for her kids, she is the epitome of escapism, allowing them all to take imaginary flight to magical destinations while “trapped” on the farm, Nêrens, literally in the middle of nowhere.
The origins of Nêrens
Nêrens, Noord-Kaap is actually a theatre piece that has had sold out shows since 2017. Nico Scheepers (Die Maan Val Bewusteloos, Posbus 1) wrote the play and also adapted the scripts for television, along with Saartjie Botha, and converted it into a 13-episode family drama. Nico and Johan Cronje (Wonderlus, Meisies wat Fluit, The Day We Didn’t Meet) is responsible for the A-class directing.
This drama series is a cinematic masterpiece, supported by a very strong cast who are definitely not let down by the script writing, nor the majestic Northern Cape’s landscapes. It is as if the farm, the sand and the open spaces are their own character, because when you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere surrounded by absolute nothingness, it can be liberating, but the nothingness can also take you hostage.
Season 1 is streaming on Showmax.