1,000 Times Good Night (2013)

She risked life and family to change the world.

A labor of intense love, 1,000 Times Good Night is a striking look into the danger that surrounds the world of photojournalism in the midst of international conflict, and the strain it has on life back home. Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner, Julliette Binoche, The English Patient (1996), plays Rebecca, a dedicated and foolishly brave photographic journalist and mother of two. The opening of the film has her following the story of a female suicide bomber in Kabul, however Rebecca, in a brash and unplanned effort to document the whole story, finds herself too close to the danger and becomes seriously wounded. As Rebecca returns to her family in Ireland to recover from the injury, her husband, Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), a marine biologist, expresses his growing concerns for her safety, along with the deep emotional impact and strain the dangerous nature of her job has on the entire family, including their two daughters — played by Lauryn Canny, Poison Pen (2014), and Adrianna Cramer Curtis. With director Erik Poppe’s own experiences as a photographer of war, inspiring this intrepid work, 1,000 Times Good Night serves to tell two distinct stories; firstly that of a family, the agonizing waiting, tensions and difficulties war correspondence places on loved ones, and secondly, attempts to present the real-life horrors and tragedy associated with warfare.

The glamorous life of a photojournalist!
The glamorous life of a photojournalist!

The first few moments of the film are completely hypnotic as dust particles dance in beams of sunlight, streaming through tinny pinpoint holes in an otherwise pitch black environment, and it only gets better from there. Shot on location in Ireland and Afghanistan, Norwegian filmmaker Erik Poppe, Hawaii, Oslo (2004) — a former press photographer — and cinematographer John Christian Rosenlund, The Bothersome Man (2006), make use of everything these beautiful locations have to offer. One can almost feel the scorching heat of the Middle East or the icy winds of an Irish Coast Winter, both contrasted so perfectly. Throughout the feature, Poppe’s still photography roots shine through, with extreme angles, close-ups and innovative techniques truly encapsulating and enhancing the narrative on every level. A huge component of the storytelling comes from the feature’s aesthetics, particularly the colors and locations, likewise Rebecca’s moods are often reflected in the weather with a strong reliant on the environment, and the actor’s body language, to physically elucidate the situation.

As a film, 1,000 Times Good Night solely depends on the beauty and skill of its visual storytelling, as the dialogue is often taught, predicable and, even by these award-winning performers, very nearly unsalvageable. The characters do not say much, but what they do say is cliché and unexceptional, showing a patronizing lack of creativity when it comes to conveying the account of a crumbling marriage; cringe worthy lines such as, ‘I thought that’s why you fell in love with me,’ are awkward and disruptive to the overall mood, ambiance and tone of the piece. So, with that being said, credit goes out to the actors, as each performance is quite acceptable, given the film’s poor dialogue. Adrianna Cramer Curtis who plays Rebecca’s youngest daughter, Lisa — providing the tension relief in this intense drama — deserves an extra special mention, evoking smiles, even laughter, in the harshest of situations. Writer Harald Rosenløw-Eeg, Hawaii, Oslo (2004), manages to capture the essence of a pure and carefree child, which is portrayed seamlessly by the young Adrianna; she is adorable, direct and impulsive — as any 6-year-old should be — with her personality swaying viewers to fear for the safety and happiness of the entire family.

(I just) died in your arms ...
(I just) died in your arms …

Due to the skill and time invested in the optical aspect of the film, 1,000 Times Good Night is completely immersive and the reaction to the flick is often quite visceral. Everything within this picture demands to be felt, be it the rumble of a truck as it shakes through the desert, or the fear of losing a beloved family member; everything is critical, nothing is unnecessary. Every noise, be it a gun shot or a door slam, creates a tension and pulls viewers further into the heart of the drama. Unlike most films set with a theme of international conflict, 1,000 Times Good Night in no way has a political opinion or undertone, nor does it offer a solution to the horrors of war torn regions, rather it aims to plainly show, almost reflecting the job of a photo journalist. The piece simply states the fact that these unspeakable things do happen in such countries, and does not preach an opinion or work to move the audience to action. Instead, the film does the extraordinary, yet difficult, task of letting the conflict work as a backdrop to this compelling family account.

1,000 Times Good Night is an interesting take on the typical family-focused drama, tackling the immense subject of life, presenting its volatility, and the tough decisions people may need to make within their own lives. Overflowing with spectacular visuals and breathtaking imagery, 1,000 Times Good Night is a gripping, heart-shaped, compassionately atmospheric production, opening one’s eyes to a plethora of diverse environments and situations, while never losing focus on the central character’s and their earnest human struggles.

4 / 5 – Recommended

Reviewed by Kathryn Snowball

1,000 Times Good Night is released through Regency Films Australia