Berlinale Blog Frosty Opening

“Nobody Wants the Night” by Isabel Coixet
“Nobody Wants the Night” by Isabel Coixet | Photo (detail): © Leandro Betancort

The Berlinale 2015 has been opened by two courageous women – Isabel Coixet, the director of the historical drama “Nobody Wants the Night”, and its protagonist Josephine Peary, played by Juliette Binoche.

The Spanish director of Nobody Wants the Night has succeeded in making a film in a difficult environment and with a difficult screenplay. It is not easy to imagine how hard it was to shoot a film in such remote, snowy and icy locations. The film’s protagonist is a woman of enormous willpower who has to battle not only against the freezing conditions but also against a society that makes life anything but straightforward for her, the film being set in Northern Canada in the early twentieth century.

On the way to the North Pole

It was not only the conditions in which the movie was made which were frosty – the reactions of the audience to this film based on real events were no less chilled. It tells the story of Josephine Peary, a somewhat haughty woman from Washington, who decides to set off in search of her husband Robert Peary. He had set himself the goal of being the first man to reach the North Pole and had embarked on a journey to the Arctic, leaving his wife and daughter behind. Josephine, however, is in love and a woman not to be underestimated. Her journey, a tale of loss and loneliness, is told in sober and Spartan fashion. In contrast to Coixet’s other films, the film uses little in the way of human warmth and proximity to tell its story.

Brilliant cast

The cast is brilliant, however. Juliette Binoche from France gives a dazzling performance in the lead role, clearly conveying the desperation of a brave woman who doggedly and naively subjects herself to the harsh climatic conditions. In an igloo, Josephine Peary manages to survive the horrors together with Inuit woman Allaka, who accompanies her on her journey. “Nobody wants to experience the night, but we all have to get through it in order to understand human nature”, Binoche explained at the press conference. One of the few aspects of the film which really stands out is the way her character starts out as a rich, spoilt and bourgeois woman with a disliking of the extremes of nature and evolves to become a hardened survivor.

Allaka, the Inuit woman, is played by Rinko Kikuchi, who had already worked together with the Catalan director in Map of the Sounds of Tokyo. Thanks to her intelligence and good nature, she saves Josephine’s life on a number of occasions. Josephine’s haughtiness means that she is annoyed by Allaka’s naiveté and straightforwardness, however. Although this may not be a particularly imaginative culture shock, it ultimately has the desired effect. The film is very vivid and haunting, though its ending is something of an anti-climax given the scale of the tragedy that appears to be unfolding. Certainly the German critics were rather disappointed by the film.