After the Night, a walk in the shadows
by Bénédicte Prot
- A nocturnal journey where one things leads to another for a dealer from the slums of Lisbon who is trying to pay off a debt
Much like the team which presented the film to the public in the Directors' Fortnight in Cannes, After the Night [+see also:
interview: Basil da Cunha
film profile], the first feature film by the Swiss director of Portuguese origin Basil da Cunha (28 years old), which he filmed with amateur actors and a large dose of System D, is a young movie, rather roughneck, which has the rhythm and slang of the Creole slums of Lisbon. This is where the action takes place, together with its problems and all its sounds, sometimes friendly (the hero’s journey is punctuated by laughter, music and animated dialogues), sometimes hostile, but always present because the community represented lives in such close quarters.
The main character, Sombra (Pedro Ferreira), aptly named (since he came out of jail, he cannot stand daylight), seems however to be searching more for isolation. It is true that the gang of street criminals which he recently rejoined once again ostracised him from the start, because he has lost “something” and is given a day by the gang leader to repay him. Sombra then begins a nocturnal adventure (which ends up lasting more than 24 hours, though his aversion for daylight makes it seem as if he is going through a long tunnel) to put together the money he owes, either by claiming money from his debtors, or by taking funds from the secret stash of an aunt both exasperated and placid, who immediately makes an appointment for him with the sorcerer. He also stops by his den to feed the iguana that he calls his dragon, because Sombra is indeed the kind of guy who wants to fulfil his responsibilities.
The both familiar and dangerous universe of the maze in which Sombra lives is in fact not without rules, quite the opposite. Ultimately, the inevitability of his destiny as a Chinese bookmaker/Lisboan dealer is based on verbal commitments, a willingness on both sides to restore the balance and an agreement – the "boss" of the gang who is waiting for his payment is not actually looking for gratuitous punishment, he also prefers accounts to be settled, and retributions fair. Just as Sombra does not forget to honour the promise he made his aunt to go see the sorcerer, he trusts the little girl to whom he entrusts the dragon and the friend who will take care of his most important belonging. What was announced at the beginning is therefore accomplished, as soon as we learn that Sombra cannot bear the light of day.
(Translated from French)