The modern cinematic thematic discussions are broad and rich, as they always have been. The  conversation of race however is both refreshing and complex. Some are using it to finally change the lives of millions, others are looking to settle scores and dismiss resistance as another ‘ism’ against them and theirs. The realities will be deeper and only really be exposed longer down the line. What is certain is that this is proving fruitful for the creative community. Films from Jorden Peele like GET OUT, US or Boots Riley’s SORRY TO BOTHER YOU have all challenged the form. Alongside classics films like SOCIETY, WHITEMANS BURDEN, THE WATERMELON MAN and more, opened the discussion. ANTEBELLUM tries in its way to both be a party to this and seems to contrive itself as an ending to it also.

Janelle Monae is successful author and activist Veronica Henley. Her work in academia is well known and respected. She has influence but uses it with a soft power that lends to subtle challenges to authority. Her challenge is to improve many and the public understanding of the complexities at its heart, is middling. When she has finished her latest book tour, a quiet panic takes over her. Dreams of a plantation and slavery haunt her. Now at home with her husband and daughter, she worries about the next step. Her life is high gloss, shine, happiness, success and money. But the fears still haunts her. The films balance is pivoted on this. The idea of the past and the present. The states of womanhood and blackness on the then and now. The legacy of slavery and servitude in others. Henley is a speaker on the rights and wrongs of the post slavery American conscious. She underlines the fear of the sides and the progress. She also seems to delve into the issues at the heart of the progressive movement. How do we atone? How can we absolve the past? ANTEBELLUM has much to reward its watching because of this. Its look, its manner and its feel certainly grow on the viewer. But it is in the finished total that you find something even more. The horror of its leads is palpable because (no spoiler) the circumstances are more awful then we imagine. Though many will get there before the films reveal. The pain and truth expressed and exposed is heartfelt. It is also modern in its treatment and of course in that tone. The whole is a very persuasive film of parallels. Visually, audible and performance is punctured by duality. Themes within are all duals. Written in are topics about identity but they are framed often stunningly, in a dark and light sensibility. This is well captured in the 4k and I imagine in the UHD it is sumptuous.

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