“Nobody Wants the Night,” (“Nadie Quiere La Noche”) starring Juliette Binoche as Josephine Peary, Rinko Kikuchi as Allaka and Gabriel Byrne as Bram from one of the Berlinale’s darling directors, Isabel Coixet, should be a mesmerizing, engaging big-vista adventure. Although the film is beautifully shot against breathtaking vistas, features some of this generation’s finest actors, a classical music score and is ambitiously directed by Croixet, we are left for much of it as cold and as lonely as the characters whose tales are being told.
In real life, Josephine Peary was married to Naval Officer Robert Peary, an arctic adventurer who spent many years trying to conquer the route to the North Pole. He succeeded in 1909, although whether or not he was the “first” is a matter of debate. Josephine was an explorer in her own right, an alpha female in an age that favored males. She had the heart of a lion and the stamina to match. Nothing would stop her from pursuing her dreams and Binoche might possibly be the only actress in existence today who could portray the combination of beauty and courageousness that was Josephine.
The film is set in 1908 Greenland, as Josephine decides she wants to join her husband in the field so she can be there if he is able to make it to the North Pole. Despite stern warnings from everyone around her, she takes off into the freezing winter in search of Robert. Lives are lost, tragedy is unleashed and mysteries are broken open wielding insufferable emotional wounds that will not be easily healed.
I was distracted away from the experience by the lack of believability, so much so that I kept wondering, for example, why on earth someone like Josephine, as though starring in a L’Oreal commercial, would ever wear a silly Dr-Zhivago-style hat and petticoats, ears uncovered, on freezing dog sleds navigating sub-zero biting cold weather and relentless snow. In fact, during the press conference, it was revealed that much of the film was shot indoors on a hot stage and Binoche had to have a freezer brought in so she walk go into it and recreate the feeling of being cold before her scenes unfurled. That explains some of it.
Norway was as politically and creatively inhospitable as the freezing terrain if we are to believe Croixet, who still seems angry over the unprofessional manner in which the cast and crew were treated. So much so, that when asked if she would ever work in Norway again, she said “No” without hesitation. So without the complete back-story of how this all came about, we’ll be kind and not speak so ill of the final results. Frankly, it was a monstrous challenge and for the most part, succeeded, albeit not as well as many in the audience would have liked.
The first half of the movie unravels slowly in an atmosphere of opulence transferred rather inappropriately to the wilds of Greenland. Candlelit dinners with food and drink befitting royalty are served in a setting worthy of any big-budget period film. Wardrobe that looks like it comes from a Parisian version of the elite in Les Miserables abounds. Conversation flows slowly and I wasn’t the only one in the audience fighting my sleep.
Then, thankfully and with no warning, a second heroine appears in the form of the Inuit woman, Allaka (played by Kikuchi), whose character is unable to speak much English, but who manages to upstage everyone in the film, including the ever-beautiful and talented Binoche.
It is within this last half of the film that a dark secret is revealed and we watch Josephine, her heart ripped in two, transforming from black anger to love and admiration as the two women are pitted against the elements, their shared history and one-another.
Whether you love the film or not, one must applaud Coixet and the cast/crew for tackling such a huge-scale project and wish them well in their next endeavors.
NOBODY WANTS THE NIGHT (English)
118 Min. / DCP, 2K / Colour
DIRECTOR ISABEL COIXET
PRODUCERS ANDRÉS SANTANA, JAUME ROURES
CO-PRODUCERS ANTONIA NAVA, JEROME VIDAL, ARIEL ILIEFF, DIMITAR GOCHEV
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS ANDRÉS SANTANA, ANTONIA NAVA, JAVIER MÉNDEZ
WRITTEN BY MIGUEL BARROS
CINEMATOGRAPHER JEAN CLAUDE LARRIEU (AFC)
PRODUCTION DESIGNER ALAIN BAINÉE
ORIGINAL MUSIC LUCAS VIDAL
EDITOR ELENA RUIZ
LINE PRODUCERS ANDRÉS SANTANA, MARTA MIRÓ
COSTUME DESIGNER CLARA BILBAO
MAKEUP ARTIST SYLVIE IMBERT
HAIR STYLIST PACO RODRIGUEZ H.
SOUND RECORDIST ALBERT GAY
SOUND DESIGN ENRIQUE G. BERMEJO
SOUND MIXER DANIEL SAIZ
DIGITAL EFFECTS BERNAT ARAGONÉS
COLOR GRADING PEPÍN
SPECIAL MAKE-UP PABLO PERONA
INTERNATIONAL CASTING MONIKA MIKKELSEN
Josephine JULIETTE BINOCHE
Allaka RINKO KIKUCHI
Bram GABRIEL BYRNE
Ninq ORTO IGNATIUSSEN
Spaldinq MATT SALINGER
Frand Nashtel BEN TEMPLE
Lucius REED BRODY
Odaq ALBERTO JO LEE
Henson CLARENCE SMITH
Fyodor VELIZAR VINEV
Njal CIRO MIRÓ
Inuit Woman 1 GAZ ZAA LUNG (LISA QAAVIGAQ)
Inuit Woman 2 SORINE KIRSTINE EUNIKE PETERSEN
Inuit Woman 3 PANINNGUAQ SOFIA IGNATIUSSEN
Erneraq RAÚL JUEGA GONZÁLEZ
DIEGO JUEGA GONZÁLEZ
MATEO DURO LÓPEZ
Narrator CLARENCE SMITH
Filmed in Norway, Bulgaria and Spain.