Magazine article Screen International

Nobody Wants the Night

Magazine article Screen International

Nobody Wants the Night

Article excerpt

Dir: Isabel Coixet. Spain-France-Bulgaria. 2015. 118mins

Isabel Coixet's handsomely mounted period drama veers between epic Arctic vistas and intimate igloo intensity, and while blessed with an impressive double act in the form of Juliette Binoche and Rinko Kikuchi it never quite settles on enough intensity to carry its almost two hour running time. Nobody Wants The Night (Nadie quiere la noche), which opened the Berlin International Film Festival has appropriate style and panache, but this frosty film lacks a much-needed dash of dramatic fire.

The epic nature of the first part of the film contrasts effectively with the second part, which is set largely in the rickety frozen shack and the claustrophobic igloo.

The presence of Binoche and Kikuchi gives this English-language film the right acting credentials to appeal to distributors, and certainly some of the visuals are quite stunning. But the backdrop of dangerous North Pole exploration at the turn of the 20th century flatters what is at heart a rather intimate story of discovery, love and survival between two very different women.

There is a sense of epic narrative to the background story of real-life American explorer Robert Peary (never seen in the film, but who plays a central role) and his ambitions to be then first man to reach the North Pole. Juliette Binoche plays his high society loyal wife Josephine, who supports and encourages his grand ambitions, despite the fact that it has meant that they have spent years apart. In 1908 she decides that she want to join him as he comes closer to achieves his dream, and arrives in the North perilously close to the dangerous onset of winter.

The film opens with Josephine gleefully shooting her first polar bear ("a big male" she calls out happily..."average" comments her Inuit guide). She wants to travel deeper North to try and meet up with her husband despite the advice of grizzled explorers, and manages to convince the longhaired and experienced explorer Bram (Gabriel Byrne) to lead a small expedition of three sleds and dog teams to take her. Bram - sporting an Inuit-style nose tattoo and a relish for clean remoteness of the frozen north - reluctantly helps her, despite knowing the terrible risks involved.

After incident and drama she eventually reaches a base camp hoping to find her husband (of Lieutenant Peary as always refers to him), only to discover he has pushed onwards. With winter drawing in (and the onset of almost permanent night due) she finds herself alone in a shack, accompanied only by Inuit woman Allaka (Kikuchi), who lives in an igloo she has built nearby. …

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