Review: The Night of the 12th
- CANNES 2022: Dominik Moll crafts a French-style Zodiac, an ensemble police investigation both highly effective and brilliantly acted, where procedures and mindsets reveal a frayed society
"Every year, the Criminal Investigation Department opens 800 murder investigations. Some are never resolved. This film is about one of these." The opening text of The Night of the 12th [+see also:
interview: Dominik Moll
film profile], Dominik Moll’s new film which was unveiled in the 75th Cannes Film Festival’s Cannes Première section, sets a very clear tone: it’s the mysteries you find along the way (and their protagonists) rather than the destination that count. But when it comes to murder, clearly there’s always hope that the guilty party will be found, and from leads to suspicions, from interrogations to phone tapping and from intellectual hypotheses to video-surveillance mousetraps, an intricate web is revealed, reflecting a composite human society plagued by violence against women.
Notoriously at ease in troubling atmospheres (from Harry, He’s Here to Help through to Only the Animals [+see also:
interview: Dominik Moll
film profile]), the French filmmaker has carefully settled into this crepuscular ground (armed with a screenplay penned alongside Gilles Marchand and based on an original idea by Pauline Guéna, taken from her novel 18.3. Une année à la PJ) to craft an ensemble film combining nigh-on documentarian realism around the methodical and obsessive work involved in police investigations (unveiling great loneliness within a very male-heavy, ritualised collective) with a thriller-like pace which rebounds from one new development to another whilst lending real depth to each of the very many secondary characters.
"Last night, a young woman was killed nearby. We have reason to believe that it’s your daughter". For Yohann (Bastien Bouillon), the brand-new team leader of the Grenoble crime squad, the discovery of the burned body of a young woman who had been returning home after an evening with girlfriends the previous night in a deserted suburban area of Saint-Jean de Maurienne, marks the beginning of a long and drawn-out hunt. Visiting one ex after another - because the victim was “quick to fall in love” and “loved bad boys”, the police team (notably including a highly emotional Bouli Lanners who’s in the midst of a separation) in charge of the case roam the region and its communities, hemmed in by oppressive yet majestic mountains, contending with youths by turns flippant (a fun-loving "sex friend"), hypocritical (a fan of double lives), reckless (a rapper who’d uploaded a song to YouTube about the missing woman, featuring the lyrics "I’m going to fry her" and who claims "they were only words"), marginalised, unbalanced, and even already charged with domestic violence ("we had rough sex, she liked my animal side"). It’s a gallery of individual portraits which - from a lighter sent in an anonymous letter to hidden cameras on the scene of the crime and on the victim’s grave - punctuate a three-year investigation as fascinating as it is appalling.
Directed in a sharp and stripped-back style, The Night of the 12th reveals the vocational nature of investigative work, mitigating the venomous aspect of society where judgements on private lives can often lead to the wrong conclusions: "it’s like we’re talking about a whore. Who has she slept with, who hasn’t she slept with? She was killed because she was a girl. She liked boys to like her and she always fell for the wrong guys."
(Translated from French)
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