Dark, Almost Night: BRWC Raindance Review. By Matt Keay.
Fairytales have been an integral part of our culture for centuries. Applied metaphorically, the model enabled preliterate civilisations to form their own literature, morphing into the cautionary tales we know them as in modern society. The tropes of these tales, (old hag, princess in peril, knight in shining armour), were cemented late in the history of the genre, as the true origins of fairy tales are rooted in cruelty, violence, and mysticism.
‘Dark, Almost Night’, Borys Lankosz’ third feature, based on Joanna Bator’s novel, is a film which tells its story through the more traditional fairy tale method. You will find no princesses in the story, no singing snowmen or friendly dwarves.
The film has more in common with the Italian writer Giambattista Basile’s seventeenth century permutations of the stories, where Cinderella snaps her stepmother’s neck with a dressing trunk, and Snow White tortures her evil stepmother to death. For ‘Dark, Almost Night’ is certainly not a fairy tale for children, even though it is more than willing to make them suffer.
The plot, such as it is, concerns Alicja Tabor (Magdalena Cielecka), a journalist reporting on the disappearance of three children, who returns to her home town of Walbrzych, Poland.
There, she meets individuals from her past who aid her (in varying levels of helpfulness) in uncovering the secrets not only of the crimes she is investigating, but those of her family, and her childhood. The film is dark, literally and figuratively, and explores a litany of taboo subjects, paedophilia, incest, rape, murder, sometimes sensitively, other times flippantly, but always appearing to serve the story, as best as could be gleaned.
‘Dark, Almost Night’ is overwrought and half an hour too long. It seems so bogged down in its own mythology that it always leaves the viewer behind a few steps. That said, the cinematography is atmospheric and arresting, (the forest sequences, in particular, are the most effective, bringing the film into the horror genre momentarily), and the central performance from Cielecka is passable.
However, there are many great films constructed within a fairytale framework, but unfortunately this is not one of them.
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