An exploration of how people perceive night - the time between dusk and daybreak - from the natural to the man made, the dramatic to the subtle, the benevolent to the menacing.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
If the Creator had wanted to have some music to accompany the work he was doing bringing the universe into existence, he would no doubt have hired Cezary Skubiszewski to compose the orchestral score. If there is a second opportunity, Cezary could use the score from Night as his audition piece. These thoughts are triggered by the impressive wordless opening sequence in which a night storm is shown in fast forward mode. It is visually exciting, but without the music it would be a mere novelty. The music adds layers of drama and involves the audience in the complexities of nature itself.
The score continues to define this film in its emotive sense and while there are patches where the images lack meaning or relevance, the overall effect is cohesive - almost as cohesive as a film like Koyanisqatsi, the first in the Qatsi trilogy, wordless movies made by Godfrey Reggio, with the music of Phillip Glass accompanying images that speak of the profound imbalance of our world. Lawrence Johnston's Night speaks less of the imbalance of our world, though, and more about the duality of it: day/night, black/white, good/evil. He also makes use of the fast forward (time lapse) technique, and occasionally a bit of slo-mo, to manipulate the impact that Laurie McInnes' superb images have.
Urban vistas, shot at night in Sydney and Melbourne, are complemented by brief speaking cameos from a variety of people (several from the film industry, like producer Al Clark) who talk about what night means to them, how they see it, as it were. This is clearly what Johnston wants, a collection of thoughts and feelings about the subject, but it makes the film less ethereal, more banal - even if he chooses not to identify them until the end credits. (It would also be easier to exploit the film internationally if it didn't require subtitles - but that's another matter.)
Johnston steers clear of the sleazy and the sexy that inhabit the night, and perhaps that's a decision made to retain the tone of the film, although I would have liked to see sexuality given more coverage. In its favour, Night is unique -illuminating, ironically enough, some aspects of our view of its subject matter.
Review by Louise Keller:
The sky is fiery red. The sun's golden ball drops gracefully into the horizon. And then there is night. Eclectic imagery and vibrant orchestral music join forces to paint an enigmatic portrait of night. Filmmaker Lawrence Johnston's inspiration comes from his fascination of the nocturnal, and his documentary explores the visual and emotional impact of the hours after day is done. It's a cinematic work that tosses up interesting ideas brought to life by Cezary Skubiszewski's marvellous score, a sumptuous mix of classical, jazz, percussive and contempo. Meditative and often intriguing, Night is about shadows, light, mystery, romance and fun. I love the idea, but the way Johnston handles the voices of those interviewed detracts from the overall.
Johnston weaves a narrative into the imagery. There's a scurry of activity at the close of the day, as commuters head for home or get ready to go out. Night is a time to relax, it's a time for fun, to dress up (or down), to express emotions and for some, to confront the fear that lurks behind the shadows. Day and night chalk up many differences. People behave differently and feel different at night. There are fewer inhibitions, greater affection, and more vulnerability.
Producer Al Clark, singer Paul Capsis, filmmaker Adam Elliot and AFI director James Hewison are some of the recognisable faces who offer thoughts about night's different aspects, but I wished Johnston had identified his interview subjects and reduced their screentime. I also would have preferred less time-lapse photography; the astounding fast-moving images lose their effectiveness when used to excess. Overall, though, this is a lovely idea and greatly elevated by Skubiszewski's musical diversity and prowess.
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CAST: Documentary featuring Paul Capsis, Al Clark, Adam Elliot, James Hewison, and others
PRODUCER: Lizette Atkins, Lawrence Johnston
DIRECTOR: Lawrence Johnston
SCRIPT: Lawrence Johnston
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Laurie McInnes
EDITOR: Bill Murphy
MUSIC: Cezary Skubiszewski
RUNNING TIME: 82 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 7, 2008