You’ll need strong nerves to get through Channel 4’s latest crime series, The Rohrfeld Murders, and I’m more concerned that his sheer cruelty might hamper his success. Imported from South Africa, a nation where life and politics are perhaps more charged, it has aspects of its history that are almost too disturbing. And that’s just the mentally damaged and morally impaired police officers. When you arrive at the crime scene, you’ll have trouble keeping your dinner down. The show features the most grotesque corpses: strangled, decomposing, bloated faces as if screaming out in unimaginable agony. You can almost hear the actors on set – “Okay, makeup and prosthetics teams, that’s enough. Can we just shoot the scene now?”. You’ll think I’ll easily forget the scene where a stray dog fetches with a decomposed human arm.
The central figure in the carnage is Reyka Gama (Kim Engelbrecht), a personally stubborn but brilliant psychological profiler in her thirties, the best in South Africa. She is asked to make sense of a series of bodies found in the vast KwaZulu-Natal sugar plantations on the land of a white farmer. The victims are all young girls. Reyka, who can discern social class and cause of death from the meager human remains, is convinced it is the work of a serial killer. However, the Killing Fields are about to be sold to a local Zulu chief and the smug and corrupt local police would prefer not to disrupt the trade and pretend it was all either witchcraft or gangsters. There is long debate as to whether an arm ripped from a torso, rather than being chopped off with a machete, is compatible with witchcraft traditions; and fairly raw references to race are never far away. The chief explains: “I am not Mandela. I want what’s mine.” Reyka’s task is to overcome all these obstacles and stop the killer.
Engelbrecht’s heroic Reyka is intelligent, determined, and well-armed to understand the criminal mind, but for the saddest and strangest of reasons. A neglectful mother, she drinks too much and is tense with her own mother. Through harrowing flashbacks, we learn that she herself was kidnapped at the age of 12 and imprisoned in a remote estate. Her captor, Angus Speelman (Iain Glen), is described in a courtroom scene as “a charismatic narcissist with a perversion” — the perversion being pedophilia. We see him snuggle up to young Reyka with the words “they don’t understand our love” and one fears the worst. She escapes, but perhaps Reyka seeks the inevitable “closure” and continues to visit Speelman, now in prison. Played by Iain Glen, he is a terrifying, manipulative character, a combination of Jimmy Savile and Hannibal Lecter – “I can tell you things, Reyka. things you forgot”. More than creepy.
The whole show frankly freaks you out, and the only benefit of the occasionally harrowing alternation between Reyka’s tormented past and still tormented present is that it distracts the viewer from exposing themselves to over-extending unbearable suffering. Beautifully filmed in breathtaking green landscapes and endless skies, The Rohrfeld Murders is a drama that is burned into your consciousness. It dispenses with the occasional dark ironic humor to relieve tension that is familiar from British or American crime series. It’s relentless and incessant, just like a serial killer.
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/reviews/cane-field-killings-review-channel-4-b2053875.html The Cane Field Killings Review: So gruesome you’ll have trouble keeping your dinner down