In adapting J. M. Coetzee’s celebrated 1999 novel, the screenwriter Anna Maria Monticelli and the director Steve Jacobs (who are husband and wife) have tried to create a visual tone analogous to his extraordinary prose—dry, spare, abruptly violent. The movie, shot in South Africa and Australia, is skillful and tense, and the landscapes are magnificent, but the implacable rhythm of Coetzee’s sentences, which makes the book impossible to put down, escapes the filmmakers, and would probably escape any filmmakers. John Malkovich is the played-out literature professor who is fired from a Cape Town university for sleeping with an undergraduate; the wonderful South African actress Jessica Haines is his tough-souled daughter who lives deep in the country and takes him in. In the wake of the violence that ensues, the movie, like the book, poses several key questions: Who shall control the land of South Africa? Who will be the country’s children? With Eriq Ebouaney as the black South African who shares the daughter’s homestead.