Award winning writer/director Anne Émond exposes the dark side of modern life by pulling it inside out. Nuit #1 is essentially a dialogue of what in normal everyday life goes unspoken—a dialogue of subliminal fantasies, thoughts, urges, insults, confessions, harsh criticisms and observations, the stuff most of us don’t admit to ourselves or even have awareness of.
It begins with a 12 minute sex scene. Clara (Catherine de Léan) and Nikolaï (Dimitri Storoge) arrive at Nikolaï’s “crappy little apartment,” sweaty and over-stimulated from the rave where they just met. They go at each other with all the animality and clumsiness of real people. It is not an erotic scene, nor is it a “love making” scene. It is an intimate and awkward human moment. In fact, it’s uncomfortable to watch. And this sets the tone, as Émond maintains a healthy degree of discomfort throughout the film.
Nuit #1 (Night #1) unfolds as a long after-sex talk that completely unravels Clara and Nikolaï. They have nothing to hide because they have nothing to lose. There is a theme of “getting to the bottom of things” or “hitting bottom,” and they each do just that in their own way. What comes of it all is a realization of profound disconnection—a kind of disconnection that’s peculiar to modern life. Clara and Nikolaï have no context in which they can understand themselves. They don’t feel like active participants in their own lives. Life is happening to them, and they can only watch themselves from a frustrating distance. And so they share their observations.
This sense of being trapped is heightened by the camera work, much of which is too close for comfort. The shots are such that the viewer is kind of hovering over the characters—not quite the psychological close-up that creates the feeling of being inside the head of the character, and not far enough away to provide much visual context. The best example, and best scene in the film is when Clara, during one of several attempts to get away from Nikolaï, is caught in the rain on the way to a bus stop. She walks quickly and the camera follows her in such a way that any sense of direction is impossible. It is disorienting and chilly, and rather beautiful.
While both actors are excellent, it is Catherine de Léan’s performance that gives Nuit #1 its real power. Her final confession and breakdown is so compelling and so rooted in human experience that it gives heft to everything that comes before it. Otherwise, we would grow tired of these two miserable characters.
Émond does not attempt to provide answers. In fact, on the surface of it, Nuit #1 teeters on the brink of nihilism. But looking at the story as a whole, it becomes apparent that for those who seem to be slipping through the cracks of modern life, an open, unflinching dialogue of this kind may be a step in the right direction.
Adopt Films will open Nuit #1 July 27 in New York and August 10 in Los Angeles followed by a national roll-out.