By Don Simpson | August 9, 2012
Director: Anne Émond
Writer: Anne Émond
Starring: Catherine de Léan, Dimitri Storoge
I could watch the opening montage of writer-director Anne Émond’s Nuit #1 on repeat for hours on end and never tire of it. Sweaty bodies bounce in unison to a song that clearly is not the same one that we are hearing on the film’s soundtrack. The visuals are slowed down in an attempt to sync the crests and troughs of the dancers with the beat of Elysian Fields’ sluggish cover of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Les amours perdues”. The movement of the dancers and the BPM of the music lend the sequence a hypnotic air, as if intending to lull us into a dreamlike trance. This fantastical interpretation of the rave is intended to provide us with a better understanding of the sexual ecstasy shared between Clara (Catherine de Léan) and Nikolaï (Dimitri Storoge) — because what better way to conclude a night of bliss than with an intense sexual encounter?
Within seconds of entering the front door of Nikolaï’s apartment, their clothes are strewn across the entryway as their naked bodies grind against each other with reckless abandon. As if a greater power is trying to get Clara and Nikolaï to pause before rounding any more bases, they encounter a series of interruptions — a bathroom break, a long search for a condom. But, eventually they come to an orgasmic climax and promptly fall asleep from exhaustion on Nikolaï’s mattress; except, Clara finds herself unable to sleep, so she takes a bath. Then, still wet from bathing, Clara hurriedly dresses in an attempt to disappear without waking Nikolaï.
For Clara, the aforementioned events were purely just a one-night stand. (As we find out later, this is business as usual for her.) Why stick around and chat during an unavoidably uncomfortable morning after? Considering that Nikolaï could not even remember her name, Clara probably assumes that he feels the same way… The problem is that Clara is inexplicably bound to Nikolaï’s apartment as an unseen force seems intent upon keeping her there. This enables Nikolaï to confront her. Immediately on the attack, Nikolaï launches straight into a modern life is rubbish monologue about the recent downfall of women and relationships.
Like a one act play, the film’s two actors are trapped in one location for the duration of the film. Nuit #1 takes place in near real time, with several natural pauses in dialogue. Whenever the characters do speak, they do so in extended monologues in which the actors make gross assumptions about each other — sometimes more aggressively than others — and other times they expound their their own shitty lives. They speak as if they are the only character present, which is visually accentuated by the camera’s propensity for one-shots and close-ups. In their minds, Clara and Nikolaï exist in solitary confinement, even when other bodies are around them. Both characters are unable to form connections with other people. Sex has become the only collaborative act that they participate in. They find themselves in existential crises, depressed and stuck in a recurring loop of self destructive behaviors. They are two lost souls in search of an identity and purpose. On this fateful night they just so happened to collide with each other.
Nuit #1 contemplates the downsides of dating in a modern world in which people have moved away from conversing with other people in favor of talking to other people. This is at least partially because most modes of electronic communication promote the concept of expressing oneself with no pesky interruptions. We can formulate complete thoughts and opinions before sending a message, and this is exactly how Clara and Nikolaï speak to each other. They might as well be writing lengthy emails to each other. While the same can be said for letter writing, that form of communication was traditionally used whenever people could not converse face-to-face. Our modern society opts to text message, instant message, Tweet or email even when we are in very close proximity to each other.
Émond also takes on the subject of identity, specifically national identity, partially as a metaphor for the Québécois population. The language and culture of Québécois segregate them from the rest of their country, creating a nearly insurmountable gulf between them and English-speaking Canadians. Their situation is hopeless; they are destined to exist in confinement, unless they opt to abandon their identity.