After the Night
After the Night, which premiered during Director’s Fortnight at Cannes Film Festival, is the latest feature from Basil de Cunha. Set in a Creole-speaking part of Lisbon, it chronicles the journey of Sombra, a man who owes the local drug dealer (and his boss) money after it vanishes. Naturally, as one would expect, things don’t go quite as planned.
This is a side of Portugal that is most certainly not advertised on the brochure. It unlocks the social tensions and immigration laws in Lisbon that are never reported, but are given deep thought and consideration in de Cunha’s feature. And then there’s the obligatory metaphorical animal, Sombra’s pet Iguana, who almost steals the show akin to Ulysses from Inside Llewyn Davis.
One thing After the Night does have going for it is its authenticity, largely due to the improvisational skills displayed by the actors, most of whom are first-timers or locals plucked from the city.
With the heavy use of improvisation comes the religious dialogue uttered by the characters. The Portuguese title itself, Até Ver a Luz, is rougly translated as Until You See the Light. Not incidentally, during what is arguably the best – and most poignant – scene of the film, Sombra advises his only true friend Nuvem to “follow the light”.
The most beguiling supporting characters are not the paper-thin villains, but the side characters who appear sporadically such as Nuvem himself, Sombra’s sassy and jaded aunt and a witch doctor – religion once again comes to the fore and establishes its importance within these characters’ lives.
This feels all a little too familiar, derivative of films of the same ilk (think City of God and Boyz n the Hood), though gritty and ultimately a tough pill to swallow.
After the Night is released nationwide on 25th April 2014.
Watch the trailer of After the Night here: