THE NIGHT OF THE 12TH
(Original Title: La nuit du 12)
France (2022) 115 mins.
Directors/writers: Dominik Moll
Cast: Bastien Bouillon (Capitaine Yohan Vivès) Bouli Lanners (Marceau) Pauline Serieys (Nannie)
Screening 13 March 2024 at Swindon Arts Centre
Sooner or later, every police investigator comes across a case that remains unsolved and which haunts him. For Yohan, Clara’s murder is that case. What starts as a thorough investigation into the victim’s life soon turns into a nagging obsession. Then his assistant Marceau divorces, in full burn-out.
Police procedurals don’t usually start by saying that the crime at hand will not be solved. But Dominik Moll’s The Night of the 12th does just that, and then watches a French investigator labour away at a murder case before reluctantly abandoning it. This is a refreshingly grounded, deceptively plain picture of crime-fighting as a grind of false leads, workplace fatigue and no closure.
Despite all the best intentions, ‘cracking a case’ just doesn’t happen sometimes, and the movie matter-of-factly avoids the magical thinking we’ve absorbed from decades of macho crime-fighting yarns. Instead, it’s a matter of coping with long-term, slow-motion frustrations and failure — something sadly closer to a lot of common experience than ‘save-the-day’ heroism.
Walking home one night in a sleepy French suburb, teenager Clara effusively FaceTimes a friend, hanging up shortly before a hooded assailant approaches her, addresses her by name, douses her in kerosene, and flicks a cigarette lighter her way. The image of her blazing, running body, streaking across the screen before crumpling to the ground, is one that colours and haunts Dominik Moll’s sober, elegant new film The Night of the 12th as it shifts to the greyer, plainer visual language of the police procedural.
In a film dominated by scenes of men in tough, testy dialogue with each other, this jolting tableau – both dreamlike and all too real – of feminine vulnerability meeting with extreme masculine violence never leaves our minds. The film proceeds as its male cop characters do: quietly, methodically, burdened by thoughts of worst-case scenarios they – and we – have already seen.
- The Night of the 12th had 6 wins for the César Awards including Best Film.
- It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival 2022.
- The film is based on a non-fiction book by Pauline Guéna).