Antigone [TIFF19 Review]

Commentary films are somewhat of a norm nowadays. In the world we are currently living in, they are impossible to escape. But rare are those films that go in a different direction to look at our situation. Most of them are brutally honest and raw, making your emotions run wild. And Antigone does that but in a different way. It’s brutally honest and raw but decides to look also at the past to explore our present. By adapting the Greek tragedy of the same name, Sophie Deraspe (The Amina Profile, Missing Victor Pellerin) finds a way to do a commentary on today’s world while looking at the past of it all. It’s interesting and sad that such an old tale still works but Deraspe is capable of hammering down her point by changing just a few things to make it fit today’s world.

Focusing on Antigone, a young woman who’s family immigrated when she was still a child following the murder of her parents. With her two brothers, sister and grandmother, they form a somewhat normal family who’s trying to move past their tragic past. But tragedy hits when one of her brothers is wrongfully killed by a police officer during the arrest of the other. Deciding to put everything on the line for her brother, Antigone hatches a plan that would set him free even if that means jeopardizing her own future.

Social commentary movies usually go the same way all the time, it’s, after all, a reflection of our world. More often then not, these films take place in America where the history of the country is perfect to be the birthplace of such films. It’s somewhat hard to imagine the same in Canada but the truth is simple: Canada isn’t better, it just knows how to hide it. When you look at it, Quebec, in particular, isn’t all the welcoming to newcomers. Just look at the Quebec ban on religious symbols which targets mostly minorities. And that is why the setting of Antigone is powerful. We don’t usually see it and to have it exposed in such a raw way is unsettling but important.

Antigone uses the time period we are in very cleverly. Montages of social media posts that show us a window to the world it’s set in. While they might seem out of place at first, they start to make sense as time goes on. Slowly, the world-building that is made through those social media montages show how big the story is getting. That’s relevant to today’s world because Antigone’s story is a viral one. By doing montages like them, Deraspe is able to anchor the film into our world, even more, to make us relate to them because we all live in this world where social media is everything and control what we know and think of everything.

One of the most powerful images of the film is seen at the end of the film. The moment where the vicious cycle of life finally caught up to us. Antigone’s story is one we all know, one of an immigrant child that never had the same chances in life. Antigone has finally made her choice and will follow her heart. Just as she is being escorted towards a plane take will take her to the country she left when she was just three years old, she is faced upon a family, not unlike hers. The image is a clear mirror of the one we saw from before when Antigone was telling her story. It’s at that moment that the film really anchors its message.

Antigone’s life is nothing but a cycle. War will always ravages country and people will always seek refuge but what needs to be changed is the way the world reacts to them. Antigone’s family is a victim of our system. They never got their citizenship because it was too much paperwork for their grandmother who speaks no English or French. Because of that language barrier, the brothers found a way to provide, by joining a gang. It’s a cycle not uncommon but one that needs to be. And the way Deraspe is able to showcase that without words in one image, is pretty powerful.

Antigone doesn’t shy away from being hard and harsh to our world. Its truth is one that we know but too often ignore. One that tells a story we know and yet we don’t want to talk about. Even if it technically is an adaptation of a 2 500 years old story, Antigone is relevant and important in today’s world.