Here is our very first review of “Dark Before Dawn” thanks to Jeffrey Pierce on the Boca Jump website, for which we are unspeakably grateful! If you want to see this review in it’s natural habitat you can find it here: http://elgin.bocajump.com/General/qdark-before-dawnq-stars-downtown-elgin
“Dark Before Dawn” Stars Downtown Elgin
Blue Damen Pictures’ locally produced feature film “Dark Before Dawn” was premiered to a capacity audience at Elgin Cinema Thursday, joined by cast, crew and filmmaker Gwydhar Gebien, a 2009 winner of the Elgin Short Film Festival.
The movie is created in the microbudgeted “mumblecore” style, which strips away all but the most basic elements of character and setting. The term helps to legitimize this relatively new, dialogue-driven genre, and “Dark Before Dawn” demonstrates that low-tech amateur film making is capable of delivering a worthwhile story and good acting.
Set during the middle of the night in downtown Elgin, the movie is essentially one long conversation between two strangers whose painstaking personal revelations make up most of the plot. The unscripted dialogue is largely improvised by its two lead actors, Pete Garlock and Amy Karen, in scenes that move from the tracks, through downtown, to the river and back again. With occasional humor and snippets of Allenesque banter, their lines keep a steady tempo for about as long as any one movie conversation should last.
But the juxtaposition of small and enormous problems adds interest to each character’s back story, conceived individually by the actors (unknown to the other) and revealed on camera with no rehearsals. An emotional dramatic scene near the end is especially skillful and compelling, as the characters trade positions of strength and weakness in a way that we care about and will remember.
The “third star” in the picture is downtown Elgin, whose parks, facades, streets, and skylines are showcased in numerous beautifully framed shots, lit in film noir style by street lamps and electric signs. A few minor technical glitches and continuity gaps don’t detract from the fine creative direction and camera work, and a haunting musical score leaves us wanting to hear more. “Dark Before Dawn” bodes well for the future of film making in, by, or about Elgin.
For more information, visit www.darkbeforedawn-movie.com, www.bluedamen.com, or support their next project, “Recalculating,” on www.kickstarter.com.
- Jeffrey Pierce