The short film “Before the Last Curtain Falls” is based out of Europe, and follows a group of transgendered, homosexual and transsexual people in the autumns of their lives, as they tour the world with their drama, “Gardenia”. The cast members have been touring for the past two years, and are returning home to perform their show for the last time. “Gardenia” is performed without speech and depicts the transformation of each character, ultimately ending in an unveiling of their true colours and personalities. “Before the Last Curtain Falls” is a documentary that introduces viewers to each member of the show “Gardenia”. Each participant exposes elements such as their sexual preferences, lifestyle choices, stories of finding their true selves, and most importantly what “Gardenia” means to each of them. The main themes in “Before the Last Curtain Falls” are love and courage, as each person is baring themselves raw to tell a story, express themselves and try something new. Some of the people in the documentary are looking for love, some have found it and some have no interest, but the connection that they form through performing together fulfills them all.
While some of the people in the documentary had no problem coming out, others truly struggled. For example, Vanessa chose to have surgery when she was in her twenties and fully transitioned. However, life was not as simple as she had hoped it would be after surgery, as she was shunned from society and the life that she was accustomed to. Vanessa performed regularly throughout her life and prostituted for thirteen years, before finally retiring and turning to “Gardenia” later in life. Vanessa has been living as a woman for longer than any other participant and speaks openly about her sex life and her struggles, which include a complete denial of her life before she transitioned.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Rudy is a homosexual man who has never come out to his family or society. For him, taking part in “Gardenia” is a great risk as well as an escape. He describes how his father was a prisoner of war and has photographs of the brutalities that homosexuals faced. He lives in fear every day. Rudy discusses the relationships that he has had with other men, and ultimately why he has chosen to stay single, as he claims they always end in drama. One thing that is important to observe is that one cannot assume that all of the people in “Before the Last Curtain Falls” live the same way or want the same things just because they all participate in “Gardenia”. People who perform drag are often stereotyped as being transgendered, when in reality not all of them are.
One scene that stood out to me was when the director asked Vanessa to speak about her life before she transitioned. She clearly felt uncomfortable, but pulled out a photo of herself as a twelve-year-old boy for the sake of the film. Vanessa described the sadness that she felt when looking at the photograph, as she remembers how unnatural and unhappy she felt at that time in her life. She speaks about the confusion she felt and the sense that she did not belong. Finally, the director asked Vanessa to share what her name was before she transitioned, and she became angry and defensive, claiming that her previous life was not her own and was of no importance. Vanessa finally shared that her name was previously Jean-Pierre, before tearing up and asking for a different question. This scene made it clear to me that she has truly struggled with her identity in the past, and the need that she feels to be respected as her true self.
Overall, I enjoyed “Before the Last Curtain Falls” and it opened my eyes to topics that I had never really thought of before. The showing was at 2:00pm on Saturday, so I walked to the theatre with two friends of mine, and afterwards we all agreed that we felt that the film had enlightened us. I liked the connection that I felt to each participant, as well as the clips that were shown from “Gardenia”. I also really enjoyed the photographs that were shown of each person in their younger years, and the stories of their various experiences. If I could add one thing to the documentary, I would have loved to see footage from the traveling that the group did for “Gardenia”. It would be amazing to see the changes in each person from the first show to the last. In conclusion, I would recommend “Before the Last Curtain Falls” and I think it was a great addition to Reelout.