I like how Gabriel Bryne is advertised as having a major role in this film, and yet he’s in here for, like, twenty minutes.
If you have never heard of this film before, you’re not alone. Only through the activity of a friend did I discover this deeply polarizing (ha) film. On one hand, my friend enjoyed it immensely, and her opinion is one I trust deeply. On the other, the critic consensus revolving around this film is general is very poor; Rotten Tomatoes currently has it at an 8% Tomatometer score. Originating in Spain (at least in part, according to imdb), it didn’t receive a lot of attention elsewhere, at least as far as I’m aware. Every film database I’ve checked shows the film isn’t very well-known.
In my time watching film and slowly growing to accommodate to my tastes in the field, I’ve felt that, with time, I’ve become more in tune with the emotional side of stories, in a way that makes me forgive technical flaws in favor of a captivating heart behind the production. This film is special in that it worked both ways; a strange combination of my past preference for technical perfection and my current attitude for emotional connection. The former gave a harsh disdain for this film, the latter saved it from the worst of it.
So many little tidbits available in Nobody Wants the Night (a direct translation of its original title, which international copies discarded for Endless Night, which is confusing) that cause me grief, in a way that has almost never grieved me before. I’m about to complain about the lighting for goodness sake! Has anyone reading this blog ever heard me complain about lighting before in a film? You’re about to see a first for The Visualist’s Veranda! Nobody Wants the Night has bad lighting. Bad, at least, in the sense of its quality of realism, emphasized by the fact that little candles in glass tubes can illuminate a tent ten to fifteen feet in diameter so that everything can be seen clearly. Alright. Many scenes have this, and when they don’t, they swim in a glossy gray and brown perspective that I personally don’t care for.
Lighting is but one aspect that bothered me, as plenty of smaller aspects really irritated me for the first forty minutes of this film. A shaking camera for no reason, uneven performances by basically every male actor (and somewhat by Juliette Binoche, the female lead), and artificial writing that belongs in PBS documentaries make for a very slow, uninteresting slog into the film’s pre-midway point (just before halfway through). I wasn’t sure I would even make it through the film the way it began.
Then, the film got interesting. Stranded in a wood cabin in the middle of nowhere, Binoche is joined by a female Eskimo named Allaka, played by Rinko Kikuchi (of Kumiko, Treasure Hunter). Their bond and experiences together, highlighted by their (albeit with straightforward presentation) differences in culture, slowly have them rely on one another more and more. The closeness these two women share, a familiar closeness only they can share as women, have them brave the fronts of nature’s wrath (which, conveniently, can be referred to as “mother nature”). A nice blend of emotional connection between humanity and the question of the perceived nature of womanhood comes on display during a near-thirty minute sequence around the end.
Unfortunately, the ending returns to a gradual dullness that the beginning of the film embodied through a slow and inevitable process of a tragic end brought to life. Predictable and (perhaps surprisingly) non-impactful, it ended up capping off a generally disappointing film. I felt there could’ve been more to be done with it. Better performances, (much) better writing, and a more focused theme would’ve given this a much more impactful execution (and fix the lighting!).
There could’ve been more to this story if not for numerous little drops of irritation that festers on the progression like sticky, icy snow. Try as the story may during the better sequences of female bonding, there’s just too little here of compact worth to make the entirety worth it. I could almost see this as a short, rather than a 100-minute feature. It’s simply a case of lost potential; lost in the vastness of the white wastelands that give this film life (and death).
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
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