|Film review: After the Night (Até Ver a Luz)|
|Written by Ivan Radford|
|Friday, 25 April 2014 06:35|
Director: Basil de Cunha
"Go out during the day! Even just for a while. Among all those who've given up, you're just another face."
After the Night (Até Ver a Luz) is a thriller set in the dark corners of Lisbon. The problem is that isn't very thrilling.
Pedro Ferreira plays Sombra, a cash-strapped, dread-locked loner who slopes between the shadows of the Portuguese capital. He doesn't go out in the day. He owes a drug dealer a lot of money. And his only companion is an iguana. He sounds like a colourful chap, but Basil de Cunha's film, which follows his attempts to balance his books, is a strangely bland affair.
The film rolls around in the the grit and grime of Lisbon's slums, a world of tin roofs, collapsed walls and violent drug dealers. de Cunha shoots events with authentic immediacy, right down to using non-actors in every role. When Sombra and his aunt bicker about whether he will see a priest to cleanse him of his darkness, that semi-improvised style works. But step into the streets and the screen soon fills with a sea of gangsters, all shouting over each other in endless arguments: it may be truthful, but it's also tiring.
The use of diegetic music from local musicians, who intimidate and encourage Sombra's rogue actions in equal measure, adds to the realism - Portugal, you remember, is in the dark itself, emerging from the eclipse of the eurozone crisis. As Sombra finds himself edging into the light after the night, you get the sense that de Cunha is reaching for something deeper, but never quite grasps it.
"Among all those who've given up, you're just another face," says one hoodlum to Sombra as he passes over a treasured gas lamp. Among all those other movies that exist in the wake of City of God, After the Night feels just like that. The setting is striking, but it's telling that the location is more interesting than the characters.