Rupert Graves Online: Film & Television.
The Sheltering Desert.
The Sheltering Desert Spacer

1992 - Vine International.

Director - Reghardt van den Bergh.

Rupert Graves - Hermann Korn.
Review / Synopsis.

During and prior to the outbreak of World War II, life for certain inhabitants of an arid, forgotten corner of Africa, took a turn for the worst.

As war clouds gathered over Europe, unjust and paranoid curbs were placed on the German inhabitants of South West Africa (now Namibia). This country had been annexed by Britain as a spoil of war after a blitz campaign by a cavalry column of South Africa during World War I. Now South West Africa was facing the demands of distant countries involved in a bloody war.

South West Africa's German population, from the end of World War I until 1939 were left in peace. Now they were heavily restricted with males between 18 and 35 years of age interned in camps. Two men refused to be put behind barbed wire. Henno Martin (Jason Connery) and Hermann Korn (Rupert Graves) had both fled Nazi Germany in the 1930's to conduct field research in Africa. They were not going to be imprisoned again.

These two men were both extraordinary, sensitive and intellectual individuals who survived against overwhelming odds in the violently inhospitable Namib desert. They battled thirst, hunger and their own self doubt in this bleak landscape. Men of science, they were pacifists and it was ironic that they were pursued by a camel column led by a cantankerous Scot, Colonel Johnston (Joss Ackland).

This is their story - a classic tale of adventure. Africa and man's survival in brutal circumstances. But 'The Sheltering Desert" is not only one of the last untold wartime adventures, it is also a story of two compassionate and refined men who are enlightened by the incredible force of nature.

Hermann and Henno wrestle with their demons in an inner spiritual journey as enigmatic as their outer journey is arduous. The cruel, introspective environment of the Namib's gravel and dune sea is symbolic of their realisations of the inherent savagery of human nature. Henno and Hermann's story begins in the territory's capital of Windhoek which was an extremely tense and volatile environment during the pre-war period. Our protagonists have returned from a geological expedition to Windhoek upon hearing of Germany's invasion of Sudentland over the wireless.

Fearing internment, the two geologists pack their ancient truck with their few possessions and their pet dog, Otto, and flee into the dune sea. They hope to find sanctuary but at the same time they expect the worst as they fear that their failure to report to the police will arouse suspicions that they are German spies.
Their fears are confirmed and they are tracked relentlessly during their journey from the sun scorched Khomas highlands to the harsh, seemingly lifeless Namib and the scenic, splendid Brandberg. From being refined academics, Henno and Hermann are forced to change as they survive barbaric situations. They have no choice but to bloody their hands in gruesome hunts with wild animals in order to eat and survive.

In contrast with their escape and their subsequent desperate struggle with the desert, their valuable wireless maintains a crackling presence keeping them informed of the insane events of the outside world and its war.

Baffled by a trail, the two Germans drive deep into the stunningly beautiful Kuiseb Canyon. Their struggle starts to take its toll on their personal relationships. Both men are on the verge of breakdowns when they make a miraculous discovery - a supply of edible carp in a desert pond (to this day, the area where they stayed is shown on maps as "Carp Cliff").

But the respite is short lived. The pond dries up under a withering sun and the struggle is resumed. Their survival instincts are those of the pursued. Then the hunted become the hunters, their ability to remain sane diminished by the savage demands of basic survival. They follow their food source across the wilderness. Danger is everywhere and confrontations with snakes, baboons and wild game are part of their daily reality.

Meanwhile, the voices of Churchill and Hitler and the sounds of a distant war echo meaninglessly across their "Sheltering Desert". Life becomes more arduous and after a desperate dash to a friends farm, Henno and Hermann are sighted and reported. Sensing the opportunity , Johnstons unleashes camel patrols led by Bushmen trackers with the Germans carefully laying traps to maintain a slender distance.

But the deprivation begins to take its toll - Hermann falls ill and, after the tension becomes unbearable between the two men, he is taken to a friend and hospitalised in Windhoek. Old friends visit his sickbed, imploring him to report Henno's location for his own survival. Hermann relents and an armed police patrol sets out to capture Henno. They needn't have bothered - the man they find is a pathetic figure, sullen and dispirited.

Colonel Johnstone is delighted, expecting to put the Germans behind bars for the second half of their lives. Heroes in Windhoek, Henno and Hermann are brought before the court.

The Magistrate reads the sentence......

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