Ma nuit: the review

Ma nuit is a 2021 film, directed by Antoinette Boulat.

Presented in 2021 in the Orizzonti section of Venezia78, it has now landed in theaters (thanks to No.Mad Entertainment) Ma nuit, the debut work of the French director Antoinette Boulat, who has extensive experience as a casting director behind her, but here she tries her hand behind the camera for the first time. The result is a successful psychological drama of an intimate and personal nature, always poised between despair and hope, a film with a strong emotional impact that conveys sensations with a markedly French touch and sensibility – a bit that bad life young man who had been portrayed many years ago by the Nouvelle Vague. The director is among the authors of the script, which sets the story almost entirely during one night, in Paris, and has eighteen-year-old Marion (Lou Lampros) as the protagonist. The girl was marked by the death of her sister Alice, which occurred a few years before her: after a quarrel with her mother, Marion leaves the house, sees some friends, and then begins a lonely and nocturnal journey along the streets of the city. By chance she meets the young Alex (Tom Mercier), who rescues her from the pitfalls of two molesters, and a strong feeling of empathy and friendship immediately arises between the two boys, so they wander aimlessly together: the night reveals itself for both, and above all for Marion, an opportunity to reflect on life. Ma nuit it is first and foremost a coming of age delicate and intimate (but also very dark), which delves into the feelings and psychology of the characters, looking at the whole story from Marion’s perspective: that is, of the one who is the absolute protagonist of the film, the character around which everything revolves, followed constantly from the camera that focuses most of the shots on her.

Because the maturation and (re)discovery of life primarily concern Marion: while Alex, despite being a few years older than her, acts as her guide, friend and older brother, and it is no coincidence that between the two it is not destined love never blossoms, but only a sincere feeling of friendship that flows into a tender and heartfelt hug. The protagonist experiences an emotionally difficult situation marked by her pain: the impossibility of mourning the death of her sister and the continuous confrontation with the ghosts of the past. A condition accentuated by the behavior of her mother, who is a bit like Bette Davis in psychodrama The anniversary, that is, it continues to annually gather Alice’s family and friends to continue celebrating the birthday of the deceased. The house where Marion lives with her mother is a house of ghosts, where death, despair, the memory of the past constantly hover. For this reason, Marion’s nocturnal journey becomes an initiatory journey to discover herself and freedom, and towards the realization that another life is possible. The girl, to use her words, must be able to “go through the night”: an expression that obviously refers not so much to the nocturnal peregrination but to the journey into the shadows of life (for which aimless wandering becomes a metaphor), and at the next re-emergence in the light of day, when the inner journey has been completed. The heart of the story, as the programmatic title suggests, is the night, so Ma nuit it is structured in the time unit of one night, where a bit of everything happens and the most disparate characters meet. Marion – a little known but very good Lou Lampros, who acts with an almost catatonic expression enhanced by the insistent close-ups – meets various characters from the underground world, among the participants in a rave party and street thugs (“vampires”, they are defined) , so much so that they are not far from the nocturnal, dark and vampire atmospheres of a Jean Rollin.

And yet, nothing in particular happens in Boulat’s film, there are no twists or key sequences, and the narration (which goes hand in hand with the style) is minimalist, it moves almost by subtraction. There was talk of a quidwith an exquisitely French sensibility: in some ways the first Leos Carax comes to mind (the drier one than Boy Meets Girland perhaps it is no coincidence that Boulat collaborated with Carax in the past), but also the youthful desperation and nihilism that Robert Bresson portrayed in The devil probably; a way of directing and narrating made up of dialogues that alternate with long silences and delicate extra-diegetic music, a neutral and aseptic photography, a unique almost experimental directorial quality, highlighted by the choice of the 4:3 format. There are indeed some visually more marked scenes – the wild dance during the rave, Marion and Alex diving into the river, or Lampros listening to the sounds of nature with headphones and then falling to the ground, exhausted from the weed she had smoked – yet in Ma nuit it is the complex dialogues that predominate: philosophical and existentialist discourses on life, nonsenseor speeches marked by nihilism and a certain shine baudelairian. Antoinette Boulat hits the mark, managing to elevate the story of Marion and Alex as a metaphor for a generation of restless young people who struggle to find their balance in the world, despite the fact that the conclusion in the light of the sun leaves a glimmer of hope.

(review previously published on Cinefilia Ritrovata)

Ma nuit: the review – Nocturno