"A Thousand Times Good Night" | The personal is political
Leaving you is a thousand times worse than being near you, says Shakespeare’s Romeo. So, returning after a long time to your dear ones who carry a lingering burden of grave tension of losing you any moment, creates such an uncanny obsession that it prevents your near ones to come closer to you like before.
War-zone photographer Rebecca, Juliet Binoche gets seriously injured in an untimely bomb blast while covering a suicide bomb squad in an unknown destination of Kabul. Heavily wounded Rebecca yet keeps on clicking pictures before she finally passes out. She is immediately lifted back home for treatment where she reunites with her family. However, her Marine Biologist husband, Marcus and two daughters cannot hide their bewilderments after receiving the ‘dead person alive’ in their family after a long gap. While recuperating Rebecca tries her best to gain the confidence of her daughters, especially Steph. In an attempt to make her daughter gain experience about what she does professionally, Rebecca accompanies Steph to a ‘conflict-free’ zone in Kenya. Her effort, on the contrary, becomes a decider in the course of directions of their lives. So, torn between her domestic responsibilities being a mother and a wife and her passion for the job, she struggles to adjust and chooses her own path in the end.
Norwegian war photographer, Erik Poppe’s first English-language film ‘A thousand Times Good Night’ thus unfolds a lot of layers, both personal and political. Scriptwriter Harald Rosenlow Eeg gives enough opportunity to Erik to use minimum dialogues and maximum expressions in the film. Accordingly, cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund visually concentrates on close shots to capture the emotions. His lens hovers around endlessly to put an ethereal beauty to horrific circumstances numbing the audience. The surreal glimpse of Rebecca drowning upside down in a pool of water after the accident is a treasure to watch.
Lauryn Canny, as young Steph wonderfully portrays her emotional confusion - her love, grudge and admiration for her mother as well. Sitting in a car, in the middle of a conversation, her impulsive clicking of shutters, aiming the camera at her mother’s face till Rebecca breaks down is one of the rare expressions of a daughter silently accusing her mother. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau adds to the woes acting vividly patriarchal in the family. Finally, Binoche’s Rebecca drags through the wringer – stoic professionalism to the quivering lips of a mother empathizing the pain she has inflicted unintentionally to her loved ones to her growing addiction to capture the honest moments of deadly conflicts.
Rebecca’s hasty parting away from the warzone with the sudden escalation of tension looks determinedly imposed in the film. Poppe of course never tries to ‘fix’ anything here. Rather, he shows us the unfiltered sufferings the protagonist’s camera captures internationally within a vignette of a domestic home.