Before Night Comes – Antigone Speech

The timeless Greek mythology never dies. It has such beauty and relevance that its narratives and motives have transformed into the backbone of our contemporary storytelling. Film after film we can detect elements from the great Greek mythology, whereas contemporary theatre looks again and again back to the source of its existence. Film doesn’t do it that often, but as the grandiose Joaquim Pavão’s “Before the Night Comes – Antigone Speech” suggests, it should.

The multitalented filmmaker, composer, and guitarist Joaquim Pavão goes straight to the source. Well, almost. By using the portrayal of Antigone written by Portuguese author Eduarda Dionísio in the beginning of 1990s, Pavão visualizes stunningly Oedipus’ and Jocasta’s daughter Antigone through deep and epic monologues. The filmmakers take on the centuries old tradition is both experimental and classical. It really depends if you approach the diverse film from the point of view of one or another art form.

As the film unfolds with beautiful aesthetics and profound performances, the mixture of art forms achieves such a mesmerizing complexity. “Before the Night Comes – Antigone Speech” uses the elements from the tradition of theatre, dance, performance art, film, and literature and fuses them together with the specifics of cinema beautifully and meaningfully. Although the theatrical performativity dominates, which can first feel a little odd for film form, these different modes of creating meaning work in harmony and visualize the story with such intensity that one can do nothing else but admire the artistic vision of the author. Everything is though carried by the amazing lead performance by Isabel Fernandes Pinto, who is supported by enchantingly choreographed dancers, or the choir, which points to the theatre tragedy tradition.

The theatrical elements continue in symbolically graded set designs as well as in harsh and layered makeup and costume design, which speak volumes of the filmmaker and his team’s creativity. Harsh nature, mud, and earthy tones add layers to the story, while their effect on the performances is intensifying. The calm and patient cinematography combined with well-paced editing highlights the gorgeous visuals of the film, which are supported by solid high contract lightning design. The score, which is also composed by Joaquim Pavão, is beautifully complex and progressive as it diversifies the emotional narrative.

Although one can feel a little lost within the story driven by deep and layered monologues as well as symbols, the film feels utterly captivating due to the previously described cinematic approach, which works creatively with different art forms. However, it is hard to imagine, what such a experimental art-house short drama could offer for the general audience. Still, if you enjoy going to the theatre to watch Greek mythology inspired tragedies, “Before the Night Comes – Antigone Speech” will surely be your cup of tea. A cup of tea, which takes you centuries back in time with intense and intimate monologues, beautiful art direction and visuals, as well as with passionately directed powerful performances. It is truly something that you can’t bite through only with one viewing. It just invites you in again.