Shifting the story from polar explorer Peary to his wife, Isabel Coixet’s Nobody Wants The Night offers a distinctly female slant on colonisation.
Frozenby Mark Wilshin
And so it begins. The 65th Berlin Film Festival gets off to a frosty start with Isabel Coixet’s Nobody Wants The Night. Like her 2013 Berlinale film Yesterday Never Ends, Coixet’s film is overtly political, arguing against the colonisation of indigenous lands, here with the story of Josephine Peary who braved the Arctic winter waiting for her husband Lt. Robert Peary to return from his final (contentious but successful) expedition to the North Pole. It’s a multifaceted tale as it nods towards the melting of the polar ice putting its native inhabitants at risk, as well as the hubris of white folk putting themselves and their subordinates in danger for a naive dream. But Nobody Wants The Night is at its most interesting in the parallels it draws between infidelity and colonisation – as Josephine stamps the superiority of the western world on the pregnant Inuit Allaka over dinner, complete with wine, table service, evening wear and gramophone; “All this belongs to me!” she screams, clearly at odds with the white desert outside the cabin windows – as well as the gender roles adopted by women in times of need, as Josephine and Allaka unite as husband and wife to protect Lt. Peary’s son. With its snowscapes and windswept furs, there’s no doubt Coixet’s film is gorgeous to look at. Although its feminist slant of female survival is let down by its turn-of-the-century story of two women pining after the same man. And despite a typically solid performance from Juliette Binoche, Coixet’s film is undermined by a bombastic script (with its theatrical turns and explanatory voiceover) and an unrelenting musical score that turn Nobody Wants The Night into a cold and hollow experience. Like an abandoned igloo in the frozen night.
Nobody Wants The Night is now showing at the 65th Berlin Film Festival