A closer analysis of "Day and Night" By Dinu-Ioan Nicula

in 8th Motovun International Film Festival

by Dinu-Ioan Nicula

Surprisingly for a young man, the director Simon Staho has a vision of a deep scepticism, which he carries about him like a black flag on the car in which the action takes place da capo al fine (a splendid metaphor of the man trapped within his own technical artefacts). From a cultural point of view, this Danish-Swedish co-production is placed under the sign of Kierkegaard and Oxenstierna: the existentialist outlook upon the limits of love meets with the generalisation of the life’s vanity, sub speciae aeternitatis. The fatalism comes from the very first sequence, the moment when the narrated voice-over announces that we are watching the last day of the protagonist, who will take his own life in the course of it. The entering of the character into the damned space of the car – alluding to Sjöstrom’s Körkarlen – means the essential step towards the auto destruction: the abdication from the quality of the father, in the dialogue with his son, can be regarded, however, like a desperate plea not to hand over the relay of this ‘mal de vivre’.

The art of the sombre chromatics, which the cinematographer Kim Hogh Mikkelsen demonstrates in a brilliant manner, underlines the idea of the world’s end, which the hero, Thomas, calls it to give him account, within the small space he leads (his modern sceptre being the steering wheel), in the same time trial room and burial vault. The protean mask of the actor Mikael Persbrandt makes from the various masks, which are passing in front of him, a succession of shadows from his past, as delusive as the dynamism of some sights, seen by the side windows of the car. Seeming to incriminate himself, Thomas sentences, in fact, this world of panopticum to a cruel disclosure, back of whom we guess the falsity of the feelings that have rounded him, even if they came from the friend, the mistress or the ex-wife (the crepuscular Lena Endre makes the connection with the conscience problems of the modern Swedish cinema).

Peter Asmussen, author of the screenplay together with Simon Staho, offers two extreme terms to the main options of the protagonist: the physiological sense of life, represented by the caretaker of public toilets, and the redeeming sense of the forgetting, impersonated by the hero’s mother. Rejecting, one by one, both variants, he makes his way, dialectically this time, towards their synthesis: the young prostitute to whom he appeals apparently for a carnal goal but in fact for asking her to send him into the void by shooting (the theme of Mar Adentro, but à rebours). The refusal shown by the young pregnant woman means, maybe too pathetically, that this relay of disappointment must not be passed to a future generation. The disappearance of the woman leaves all in the dark, the unique illumination coming from the firing of the pistol by which Thomas puts an end to his life.

It is to be appreciated mostly that Day and Night redimensions the crisis of the bourgeois intellectual, heavy exploited in the cinema of the sixties, is its equilibrium, to which are cooperating the unity of space and time specific to the tragedy, the literary tension of the dialogue and, above all, the art of the psychological connections of editing, attribute eminently cinematographic. Moreover, especially, it is the metaphysical dimension of the anguish, which we are always ready to assign to the Northern-European cultural space.