Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Erik Poppe's 1,000 TIMES GOOD NIGHT tackles art, death, sacrifice, family, career and more....

...and the best thing about this movie is that it does not cheat or trivialize any of the subjects it touches. That the film deals especially with what we might call terrorist bombings (while the bombers themselves would undoubtedly call it freedom fighting) makes 1,000 TIMES GOOD NIGHT an especially fraught experience. When it is good, which is often, it is superb, and even at the times in which the movie lessens, it is never less than worthwhile. It is also one of the most serious and moving films about sacrifice that I have ever seen.

The Norwegian filmmaker, Erik Poppe (shown at right), a few years back gave us the excellent Troubled Water, and his new film is a fine follow-up. It stars the nearly always terrific Juliette Binoche as Rebecca, a famous war photographer and a woman considered among the best in her field who loves and understands her work and what it means and why she does it about as well as she possibly can. That she is married and has two children, whom she sees too seldom, is the point upon which the movie turns. Her husband, played by the hot and talented Danish actor, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (in the second and third photo below, and at bottom, left), has determined, after the shocking event that begins the film, that his wife must finally choose between her family and the ever-possibly-fatal career she pursues.

Mr. Poppe allows us to view Rebecca in the midst of the most dangerous parts of her work, and we see that she does it very well. She does not love it, exactly; rather, she experiences it as a necessity to help this dangerous world in which we live.

We can also understand the feelings of her family members. There are no villains here, not even -- and this is the film's most miraculous effect -- those people with bombs planted on their person, ready to make the ultimate sacrifice. (I could have done without the candle-lit balloon lift off, below, but that's a minor quibble.)

In order to bring mom and elder daughter closer together, a trip to Africa (don't worry, they are told: It's a safe location) is planned. The result of this brings the film to its climax and proper close. Nothing goes quite as planned, but neither do things dissolve. Rather, the events that happen seem appropriate and important, and the decisions made are reached via genuinely felt and understood experience.

I think Mr. Poppe is one of our better directors -- interested in what is happening in our world and why, and what is to be done about it. If possible. He gets fine performances from his entire cast (Ms Binoche is, as always, sterling), and best of all, he addresses our world honestly, effectively, and without rancor or any of the feel-good cheating that is the hallmark of so many of our movies.

1,000 Times Good Night -- a Norway/Ireland/Sweden co-production released here by Film Movement -- opens theatrically this Friday, October 24, in New York City at the Quad Cinema and in Los Angeles at Laemmle's Royal, among other major cities now, and in the weeks to come. You can view the entire list of currently scheduled playdates, with cities and theaters, by clicking here and then scrolling down.

Note: At NYC's Quad Cinema, director Erik Poppe will be present for a Q&A following the 7:30 show on Friday 10/24. In L.A., at the Royal theater, director of photography John Christian Rosenlund will participate in a Q&A at after the 7 PM screening on Friday, October 24, while the film's director/co-screenwriter Eric Poppe will participate in a Q&A after the 7 PM screening on Wednesday, October 29.


Anonymous said...

Saw this fine film, and as a mother and friend of a conflict photographer I related to every scene. Direction, acting, the ingelligance of shots chosen spoke so much more than words of words on pages. For all of the photographers bringing us truth and trying to balance any type of life, I thank you.

James van Maanen said...

Thanks, Anon. I sure wish this film had recevied better reviews here in the USA, as it certainly deserved them. I am also glad to hear that, as someone who is close to one of these photographers, you felt the film was worthwhile.