Write for your life. Write for the words that save you when you are not so sure you will survive. Write when it hurts. You gotta write. Through nights that won’t end. Write for your families, your lovers, and friends. Write in the dark. Just find the light and keep your pencil above. This paraphrase of Jack’s Mannequin song ‘Swim’ could be a manifesto of Reinaldo Arenas, a Cuban writer and protagonist of the movie ‘Before Night Falls’.
‘Before Night Falls’ is a story of Arenas that is concentrated around his homosexuality, which was a main cause of his troubles and pain. The director of this movie, Julian Schnabel, does not only concentrate on the moral scandal, but he focuses on presenting the passion of Aranasa. He is trying to show both – the expansion of the writer’s talent and the process of discovering and accepting his nature. The movie is truly moving and thrilling. Schnabel illustrates the social background to tell the universal story of the forbidden love. ‘Before Night Falls’ is a classic example of LGBT movie, but it’s not a typical story of oppression and exclusion. The director tells two parallel plots that interpenetrate. First story is concentrated around the power of words (Arenas not only writes, but he also finds pleasure in reading the masterpieces of the world literature), second one shows the drama of representing alternative sexuality in the conservative society. The director highlights the absurd of discrimination and treating homosexuality as a disease. ‘Before Night Falls’ seem to be a beautiful praise of otherness – it’s brutal, but not aggressive; touching, but not maudlin.
Javier Bardem as Reinaldo Arenas is spirited and outstanding. He embodies the drama of his character, who was not only an amazing, but unaccepted writer, but also a rebel, emigrant, fugitive, prisoner. His expression is not too theatrical, but absolutely authentic – he is passionate and impulsive, but also sensitive and tender. Bardem highlights contradictions that were tearing his character apart. He shows that the fate of outsider and loner wasn’t only the result of the force majeure. Arenas was too proud and too stubborn. Freedom was the only value of his life. That’s why he loved books so much. They were bringing him the illusion of freedom in independence when he was condemned to darkness and constant hiding.
‘Before Night Falls’ is a shocking, thrilling story about life on the precipice. Arenas is presented as a representative of the lost generation, who didn’t want to agree for falling, or failing. He was treating his life as a fascinating – intellectual and existential – adventure. The director excellently presents this passion. His movie is full of dust, tears, sweat and fear, but most of all – it’s full of life. ‘Before Night Falls’ is a movie that breathes heavily, but firmly.