Had some time this weekend to return to Julian Schnabel’s film Before Night Falls. There are several aspects to the film that I admire. I like watching films about young writers and this film was based on Cuban poet and novelist Reinaldo Arenas, a young writer living through interesting times such as the Cuban Revolution. What I also enjoyed was the episodic structure to the film, moving from Arenas’ experience as a young peasant boy, to his openly gay adult life and to his time as a political prisoner inside a Cuban prison.
This trailer hides the fact that Arenas sexuality as a young man is explored fully in the film, maybe more so than the man as a young writer. I’ve read excerpts from his novel Singing From the Well mentioned in the film and I hope to read the novel he wrote during his two years incarcerated. I also hope to read his autobiography with the same title. The scenes with Johnny Depp stand out with him in a dual role as a Cuban official and also as a cross dressing inmate who smuggles Arenas’ manuscript out of prison. Javier Bardem’s acting also stands out as I’ve read he studied with Arenas’ surviving partner to perfect mannerisms.
I also admired how the film was unapologetically filled with Arenas’ poetry and prose read in Spanish. My favorite scene was when his mentor and editor referred to his type writer as the most important possession he could ever own.