Before The Night Comes
Despite being written by Greek playwright Sophocles almost 2500 years ago, Antigone has endured as one of the world’s most famous and revered tragedies, whilst its main character remains one of the most powerful female portrayals in the history of universal theatre. After a war which has left many dead and injured, the newly crowned king of Thebes, Creon, orders that all dead bodies should be left unburied, as a form of punishment. However, his niece, Antigone, defies the law and strives to give all the bodies a proper burial. The plot is a simple one, and yet its metaphoric ramifications and avenues of interpretation are available in abundance.
Even from the first couple of frames, it becomes readily apparent that this representation of Antigone’s speech from the classic Sophocles play is not an ordinary one. The initially observed choice is that for a monochromatic palette, which takes the light and life out of the portrayed world both in a real and in a symbolic way – death, mud, blood, and decay are what the film’s narrative is built on. We say ‘film’, but this project is more than just a film – it could perhaps be more accurately described as a juxtaposition of film, theatre, and music. While it progresses in a movie-like manner, the décor is faithful to the original’s setting, and the background occasionally springs into action in a dance performance that beautifully complement the chosen score.
The latter wonderfully punctuates key dialogues or actions and crafts its own niche for the audience’s attention, rather than merely intermixing with the on-screen events. However, the big stars of the show are the sublime cinematography, which cannot be praised enough for its artistic flair and cultured approach, and the performance of Isabel Fernandes Pinto, who interprets Antigone with amazing fervor and passion.
At face value, the story of Antigone reminds us that the core struggles of mankind remain the same, even across millennia. It shows that sometimes, what is decreed by law is not necessarily the best choice and that alternative courses of action always exist, as long as one is willing and ready to embark on them. While by no means pushing toward revolutionary ideas, the symbolism of Antigone is tame in its push for taking matters into one’s own hands and doing what seems to be the right thing. Through its deeply moving composition, shocking imagery and first-class representation of the main character, Joaquim Pavão’s short project combines the best out of several art mediums and arrives at a monumental achievement, which we regard as a great project.