Apr 16, 2014 Comments Off on Basil da Cunha’s Até ver a luz (After The Night – review)
By Vincent Nadeau
Structured around one of Lisbon’s creole slums, da Cunha’s film follows Sombra, an outcast living a solitary nocturnal (as his name suggests) life. Only just out of prison, Sombra desperately owes the local gang boss some money. This debt will eventually drag him into a confusing and bloody armed robbery, which will, consequently, force our main protagonist to run away.
The film’s in media res opening instantly sets a particular and somehow subverting tone; as viewers we are transported between both the documentary and the generic gangster-film genres. This specific tone ultimately brings out the best and the worst aspects of the film. On the one hand, da Cunha’s representation of a singular space in Lisbon is remarkably realistic and direct, yet, on the other hand, his characters are particularly unconvincing and uncharismatic.
Basil da Cunha paints unidealized views of the life of a neighbourhood. Moreover, this life, energy and culture completely prevail over the storyline. Da Cunha stressed the importance of improvisation in his direction saying that his actors are ‘only given acting intentions, certain cues they can’t miss and the rest is a bit like jazz, a kind of orchestrated improvisation’. Although this sense of improvisation is extremely palpable in Até ver a luz, it unfortunately fails to match the captivating intimacy with which da Cunha’s gaze interacts with the creole culture. The camera mostly accompanies Sombra in his wanderings through the slum. However Sombra’s character lacks depth: apart from his tender attachment to a pet iguana, he fails to manifest any emotions or complexions. As a result, the film is in dire need of poetry. On that account, Até ver a luz is simply strongest when it focuses on everyday people.