The 2020 American Horror film ‘Antebellum’ written and directed by Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz and starring Janelle Monae, Gabourey Sidibe, Eric Lange, and Jena Malone is a splendid piece of work depicting the plight of the innocent beings forced into slavery.
This movie revolves around a slave trapped in a cotton plantation in the Civil Rights Era. The epic timing of the release of the movie amidst the Black Lives Matter protests was an add on to the great storyline.
The movie begins with the shot o the vast, seemingly endless plantation and a grand mansion housing a white lady and her daughter and then shifts to a crowd of black slaves with soldiers watching over them. It becomes clear by the confederate flag flying high that we have landed in the Civil War era and therefore the soldiers.
Here we meet Eden, played by Monae, a slave kept captive and sexually assaulted by a commanding officer she refers to as ‘him’.
The other slaves along with Eden are also tortured and abused by Captain Jaspar and the other soldier. The mistress of the manor, Elizabeth, we saw in the beginning is also harsh and indifferent to their agony.
The second section of the movie takes us to present-day America where we get to see a life led by Eden, then called Veronica.
She seems to be truly happy, surrounded by the people she loves. Things turn the other way round when she goes on a work trip south, which leads to her entering a ‘cab’ where Elizabeth along with Captain Jaspar successfully captivate her.
Antebellum Ending: How are Veronica and Eden related?
The ending of ‘Antebellum’ seemed to ignite a lot of questions in our minds. Was Eden an ancestor trying to reach out to Veronica through her grave or was she just a character created by Eden’s imagination.
The truth is they are both the same. The story is of the 21st century and the other half gives us an insight into the happy life of Veronica led formerly to being captivated. Veronica is stripped of her identity, previous life, and her name as soon as she sets foot in the plantation.
Veronica’s escape in ‘Antebellum’:
As another slave ends her own life, Veronica and her fellow slave ‘Eli’ decide to flee. Both of them execute their plan at night where they lay their hands on the General’s cell phone. Veronica uses it to send her location to her husband but they wake the General up. Eli loses her life in the fight and Veronica somehow manages to knock the General out.
But the fight doesn’t end there.
Captain Jaspar spots Veronica and while he is on his way over, Veronica cries that the General is in the shed, fatally injured and falling for the trap, Captain Jaspar and other soldiers storm to the shed revealing the General’s true identity- senator Blake Denton.
Veronica then burns the shed. Elizabeth also joins the fight against Veronica but Veronica somehow manages to knock her out. At last, she is seen whizzing past the billboard promoting the dark plantation as a park reading “Antebellum’, Louisianna’s premiere Civil War re-enactment park.
All major credit cards and Apple Pay accepted. Anyone disturbing the peace of this plantation will be prosecuted. Blake Denton, owner.” Outside the confines of ‘Antebellum’, the tourists look at her with fascination and sneak pictures of her.
FBI agents are then seen raiding the place and the billboard ‘Antebellum’ is later bulldozed.
Racism: What the film really represents in terms of past and present.
A quote by William Faulkner, American writer and Nobel Prize laureate, taken from the novel ‘Requiem for a Nun’, is displayed – ‘The past is never dead. It’s not even the past.’ fits ‘Antebellum’ perfectly.
Talking of the movie, all the horrific incidents took place in an area in the plain sight of the American public but no-one sees it as the present, not even the viewers of the movie. They only look at it as a turbulence of the past. Turning a blind eye does not negate its existence.
This movie is also a reminder that the people who are the most well-received by society, tend to lead horrific and unbelievable criminal activities. The Denton family not only captivates and torture slaves, but they also shamefully earn profit from the park hiding dark secrets. ‘Antebellum’ is the eye-opener when it comes to racism.