À l’entrée de la nuit seen through the eyes of Alejo Franzetti, member of the preselection team of Berlinale Shorts:
The distance of a night
Cinema was born short. Those first innocent films by Lumière were just brief fragments of space and time, with a beginning and an end, but the world was there, lively and in motion.
Within a short time, and with the help of theatre, cinema learned to use moving images to represent and tell stories; with that, the famous three acts arrived. But why 3? If a prime number was necessary, why not 2? Why not 7, 19 or 43? The obvious, official answer lies in the names: Setup, Confrontation and Resolution. For so many, a film is only a film if it respects this structure; it became a kind of certificate, in the form of a horizontal line and three points: beginning, middle, end.
À l’entrée de la nuit by Anton Bialas also contains the number 3, but with a completely different significance, it implies here something of a very different (dis)order. Yes, it has three parts, but they are divided abruptly, violently, just as nations are divided by their absurd frontiers and laws, just as the protagonists of the film are separated by injustice and death. And yes, there is confrontation, but between image and sound, and between men trying to escape from injustice and murder being confronted with a terrible international system of control (and organised crime) that lets them die in the deep sea.
1. Two young men walk at night. We hear them talking, but we can see that their mouths aren’t moving. One of them, Nassimento, speaks about a dream in which he sees his brother, Madjor, and talks to him, although he is actually dead. But Nassimento doesn’t want to warn him about that. “Each time I reach out my hand, his hand vanishes. And it re-appears when I pull mine back”. They used to sell pocket flashlights in the market, says Nassimento. But one night, his brother, Madjor didn’t come back home. They never saw him again. Nassimento and his companion are walking through dark trees, in the forest of Nador (northern Morocco), where refugees and asylum seekers risk their lives to cross the sea and reach Spain, escaping from war and global injustice.
2. Some days later, in Algeciras (southern Spain), two officers of the Guardia Civil are patrolling a coastal area at night. We can hear their voices, but we don’t see them; we see the road as they drive, illuminated by the car’s headlights. As they drive along some dark coastal roads, they talk about trivial things; and during that talk, one of the officers says that there was a storm in the morning and a boat that was being pursued disappeared.
3. Five months later, in Paris, a bride is walking. She is in a park, alone, the fragile winter sun shines. We listen to her voice, she pronounces the name Nassimento, she says she now lives in the suburbs, she says she has been waiting. As in the other two parts of the film, the sequence is shown in a single shot (the real montage of the film is between the sequences, in their collision). The bride walks in the park to a chosen point. She digs a hole. She puts a photograph, a necklace and a pocket flashlight inside. This crucial act seems to be the heart of À l’entrée de la nuit, and we wonder if the film itself might be a funeral, held for those who never got one (anyone who has buried a loved one knows how important that act is, in order to understand and accept an idea as abstract as death; not only a significant ritual, but also a very concrete fact that helps to bear the loss).
Because of the thousands of migrants who have died (and are still dying) in the sea in the last few years, Leoluca Orlando, the major of Palermo (Sicily), is convinced that Europe will face a “second Nuremberg” regarding its migrant policy. “It’s a genocide and we will not be able to say to our grandsons or granddaughters that we did not know.”
Alejo Franzetti is an Argentinean director based in Berlin. He is both a member of the selection committees of Berlinale Shorts and Kurzfilmfestival Hamburg.