The Tragedy of the TRC

Within the movie, Long Night’s Journey Into Day, we are taken through personal stories and actions during the Apartheid’s rule in South Africa which lasted from 1948-1994. This film is startling yet beautiful in the way it recounts the experience of real people with real emotions. This movie is raw and explicit, but then again, so was the Apartheid. This film follows the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the court-like body assembled in order to distribute justice after the end of the Apartheid.

As many people were put on “trial” for crimes they committed against the South African people, it was explained that it almost had seemed like the TRC was similar to the reenactment of an ancient tragic play. This was especially interesting as this association is unique when you look at the other traits of the film. “The audience actually plays the role of a chorus in [this] ancient tragic play (Long Night’s). The purpose of the chorus within ancient plays is to connect the audience deeper to the characters and play itself. As they reenact and retell the horrid stories of what happened to many innocent people, when the audience “squirms” naturally, so does the audience. Although the chorus of the TRC is a sensible and composed group of people, they are still people fighting for their freedom and justice.

In this presentation of justice you notice the audience, or the chorus, as one cohesive unit, fighting for what is right. One protester during this time is recorded saying that “when you kill [him] you create more enemies […] my family is becoming your enemy and my friends become your enemy” (Long Night’s). This reference of one united force, fighting for justice, this “tragedy”, to me, becomes a lot more of a battle cry for the citizens of South Africa.

When I first watched this movie and they brought up the connection of the play, I actually restarted the film in order to do my best to understand how they would display the trial and chorus. Although just a glance into the issues of the Apartheid, we get a close comparison of how the innocent people of this area were affected by such an actual real tragedy.

Justice is blind: An eye for an eye for an eye?

Being someone who has read only a few Greek playwrights, Aeschylus’s The Furies gave me a vast take on vengeance and tragedy that was unanticipated, but worthy of talking about. There are many things that could be addressed in this playwright such as the blatant gender inequality or the lack of consistency between the characters, but what I was quick to recognize was the series of “normalized” violence that took place throughout this play. Agamemnon sacrifices his youngest daughter, Iphigenia solely so that he can go to war.  Clytemnestra, the wife of Agamemnon is upset at him for sacrificing his daughter, so she decides to stab him to death. Orestes the son of Clytemnestra and Agamemmno, decides to kill Clytemnestra for killing his father. This, among other things in this play is what puzzled me, but made me think about a real-world situation. Our society is set up in a way where in order to feel avenged, we must retaliate against those who hurt us, much like this and other Greek tragedies. 

As you dive deeper into this tragedy,  you start to see the major misogyny taking place when it comes to The Furies and their  way of thinking. The Furies claims that Orestes paying for what he did is justified because he killed his own blood, but Clytemnestra killing her husband for the murder of their daughter isn’t. Apollo, Orestes lawyer argues that Orestes and his mother aren’t really blood and uses Athena as an example of someone who doesn’t have a mother. This scene was very interesting to me because Apollo gives a convincing argument, despite the reader maybe thinking different before. Once again, I was able to relate this tragedy to the real world and how things in society and in a courtroom are never just black and white. This goes to show the most unjustifiable claims can be justified in a court of law. 

For such appalling and murderous acts that took place in this play I thought this play had an acceptable ending. It started with the furies form of justice as revenge, but ended with a legal system being set in place. This proves how important having a legal system is and how without it a society as a whole would fail. Although, vengeance and retaliation is something people will always have a hand in, justice will prevail.