|By Mira Harber
Night Falls tells the story of Cuban poet and writer Reinaldo Arenas.
He is born into grinding poverty, runs away as a child to join the revolution,
becomes a poet and an openly gay man and is eventually betrayed by Castro
& his supporters who showed no sympathy towards either artists or homosexuals.
His was a very hard life. Arenas was exiled from Cuba in 1980, along with
other criminals, mentally ill Cubans, homosexuals, & anyone else deemed
unfit to be Cuban. He lived in Manhattan for ten more years until he died,
suffering from AIDS, with a plastic
'I Love New York' bag over
Javier Bardem usually plays a mucho macho man, but in Before Night Falls,
this Spanish actor departs from all that and gives us a heart-rending depiction
of Arenas. We see a man who defies authority in every way that he can.
It's not that he sought trouble - he just couldn't help himself. He never
bothered to try and hide his sexuality, rather he flaunted it. His
writings, criticizing certain repressive aspects of Castro's regime, were
smuggled out and published. Arenas had to live his way, and write
what was inside him, and damn the consequences. It cost him dearly.
This is the story of another artist, this time a writer, who lived to write.
He was imprisoned for his life-style and for his writing. He too was a
tortured soul. We see him in the early days of the revolution, talking,
partying and loving other artists and writers. But dark days follow.
Several well known American actors have small cameos in this film, including
Sean Penn and Johnny Depp who plays two roles - he plays a slick, tightly-trousered
military man who forces Arenas to discredit himself during interrogation.
Depp also plays the transvestite Bon-Bon, who smuggles out a manuscript
in an extremely unusual manner.
Javier Bardem does a wonderful job as the tortured writer. Like the Marquis
de Sade in Quills, these two men live life on the edge, and live
in order that they can write. This devotion and obsession is both their
joy and their un-doing.