Antigone review – a heartbreaking fusion

March 22, 2021
M.N. Miller 0
Film, Film Reviews


Sophia Derapse’s Antigone is nothing short of gripping.



Sophia Derapse’s Antigone is nothing short of gripping.

Goddamn, this the second great Canadian film that I have seen this year (the other being Mafia, Inc.). Sophia Derapse’s Antigone is a fusion of Sophocles’ ancient Greek play and inspired by a real-life, infuriating tragedy in the streets of Montreal that is nothing short of gripping. Full of the morally questionable and the hopelessly naïve, it is an eye-opening character study on race, social injustice, and racial disparity when it comes to almost anything in today’s public sector. It’s heartbreaking and powerful.

Antigone is set in Quebec, where the Hipponomes family has settled after immigrating from Kabylia. There are five in total. Méni (Rachida Oussaada) is the grandmother who watches over her four grandchildren, Étéocle (Hakim Brahimi), Polynice (Rawad El-Zein), Ismène (Nour Belkhiria), and Antigone (Nahéma Ricci). Their parents were killed in their village just before they left for Montreal.

An unspeakable tragedy happens. Polynice is a star student and Étéocle becomes a petty criminal involved in gang activity. The police do what the police do. They use excessive force, killing Polynice’s brother. In an act of rage, he attacks the officer. He is arrested, jailed, and waiting to be deported. Worried that her brother won’t survive in their home country, Antigone plans a great escape. She switches places with her brother with the theory that she will avoid jail time and deportation because she is a minor.

Deraspe does it all here with Antigone. She is the writer, director, editor, and cinematographer. She puts her stamp on almost everything. Everything looks fresh, even vibrant while setting a cruel political world. Some may argue these are cliches, but it’s adapted from early, classic literature. So, where do you think these tropes came from?

Deraspe highlights the character of Antigone in a cautionary tale, but in time, she symbolizes something greater. A legend that sparks an outrage that peasants need for their uprising. Some may have downplayed the film’s remarkable insight into what has been going on in North America when it came out at TIFF in 2019. Though when compared with the social justice movements of 2020, it may seem they underplayed it.

The star-making performance comes from Ricci who plays the titular character. Her performance will bring the most crusted, make America great again, middle-aged white male to tears. It’s so effective, along with its powerful narrative, it can feel overwrought at times. But hold on, make no mistake, her performance simmers while leaving the viewer riveted, and lingers long after.

Usually, these types of adaptations never work when retrofitted from great classic literature. They are forced, never in the moment, and they usually think they have something new to say when they don’t. But Deraspe clears that hurdle easily with a provocative story that folds in issues such as racial economic disparity, police brutality, and hypocritical immigration stances.

Antigone is a searing blend of real-world issues and classic themes that’s ambitious, riveting, and harrowing

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