Saturday, April 26, 2014

Poetry in the Movies Blogathon: Before Night Falls (2000)

Wendell at Dell on Movies is hosting his first blogathon, and I've chosen to review Julian Schnabel's Before Night Falls.

Here are the rules:

1. Post a review of a movie that either has a poet as a major character, is inspired by/based on a poem, or uses poetry as an important part of the film.

- If the protagonist is a poet, at least make mention of that fact and some of his/her notable work.

- If the movie uses poetry in its narrative, include in your review whether or not it is effective within the film's structure.

2. Use one of the banners he provided and a link back to his original post.

3. Post a comment there with a link to your review.


Julian Schanbel's sophomore film stars Javier Bardem in an Oscar-nominated performance as Reinaldo Arenas, the persecuted Cuban poet and novelist who authored such works as Pentagonia, Hallucination and his autobiography Before Night Falls. The film follows his life from childhood to his death, including the years he spent in prison. After growing up with a single mother, he studies in Havana and explores his sexuality, which gets him into trouble with the government later as an openly gay writer. His terms in prison mount up, but he keeps writing until he flees to the United States, where he spends the final ten years of his life.

The primary reason to celebrate this film is Javier Bardem's heartbreaking performance, which highlights the tragic and beautiful sides of Arenas in his personal and professional lives. Of course, the film uses the poetry and writings of Arenas to great effect as well, including them as voice-over in several sequences. This provides a sense of Arenas' tortured and tender soul, and the result is a brutal film that honors one of Cuba's most celebrated writers. Other notable aspects are Schnabel's fine direction, the rich soundtrack, and the wonderful cinematography by Xavier Pérez Grobet and Guillermo Rosas, as well as the small roles from Johnny Depp and Sean Penn. Though, it all comes back to Javier Bardem's incredible performance, and the film would not be as powerful without his dedication to giving Arenas life on screen forever.


  1. Good review. I'm not sure I've even heard of this one, but now I definitely want to see it. Thanks for participating!

    1. Thanks! You should definitely check it out.