Our next film report from the Screamdance strand at Raindance 2019 is Borys Lankosz’s seriously twisted fairy tale DARK, ALMOST NIGHT. Based on Joanna Bator’s novel, this full-fat literary adaptation also screened In Competition. Here’s our writeup.
By RADIANT CIRCUS
DARK, ALMOST NIGHT aka Ciemno, Prawie Noc
d. Borys Lankosz (Poland, 114 mins)
From its opening train journey into a bleak countryside and soaring, operatic score, DARK, ALMOST NIGHT is a baroque fairy tale, complete with gnarled townsfolk, fantastical forest dwellers, children in mortal danger and an over-arching legend about a matriarch’s missing pearls. That these welcome theatrics are paired with a sickening, contemporary tale about child abuse and the uncovering of a child pornography ring threatens to tear the whole thing asunder.
When journalist Alicja Tabor (Magdalena Cielecka) returns to her hometown to investigate some missing children, she is drawn into a series of revelations about her life and those around her. The blending and blurring of themes between these parallel strands is both what makes the film intoxicating at times but the excessive layering of plots and subplots becomes hard to follow as if the story itself has become as corrupted as its players.
Lankosz’s film is always beautiful, brutal and bewildering. But, like a hot air balloon rally, after everything has risen elegantly in the morning mists, so too must some elements come crashing down. Jarring cuts to core conclusions feel more like missing reels than fully resolved endings and a brave supporting cast – heck, if you’re in a film like this, you might as well go for it, right? – isn’t enough to keep the whole thing alive when the central figure is really rather uninteresting.
But it’s easy to see why this is in competition. DARK, ALMOST NIGHT is theatrically leaps ahead of many of the other films we’ve seen at Raindance so far. That’s not to dismiss them – we’ve enjoyed everything we’ve seen – but this is like experiencing a Bompass & Parr banquet after a diet of more modest jellies. It overflows with an element we’ve been longing for in the Screamdance strand, a malevolent imagination that elevates the film above more procedural thrillers and chillers. And yes, it does threaten to push everything over the edge of decency as other reviewers have noted, but in the end we welcomed its bold commitment even if we failed to fully respond to its methods.
Despite some misgivings, DARK, ALMOST NIGHT is a film full of dread, like the mother of all storm clouds, its brooding nightmares ready to corrupt your own.
And that’s the meat of it…
RAINDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
The 27th Raindance Film Festival screens at Vue West End & Vue Piccadilly (18 to 29 SEP 2019).
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