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Toute une nuit (1982)

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Following over two dozen different people in the almost wordless atmosphere of a dark night in a Brussels town, Akerman examines acception and rejection in the realm of romance.



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Credited cast:
Angelo Abazoglou
Natalia Akerman
Véronique Alain
Paul Allio
Jacques Bauduin
François Beukelaers
Michèle Blondeel
Philippe Bombled
Ignacio Carranza
Christiane Cohendy
Nicole Colchat
Edith De Barcy
Dirk de Batist


Following over two dozen different people in the almost wordless atmosphere of a dark night in a Brussels town, Akerman examines acception and rejection in the realm of romance. Written by Matthew A. Wilson

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Release Date:

27 October 1982 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Toute une nuit  »

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Composed by Gustav Mahler (1901-1904)
Performed by Lucy Grauman
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Elements of a Logic of the Fragmentary
13 April 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

According to Cognitive Relativism and Radical Constructivism, objects do not exist outside of our perception. According to these metaphysical theories, we therefore create the world by aid of our senses, the same world that we perceive, according to Trancendentalism, because it has its own reality independent of our perception. In a world that follows the lines of Cognitive Realism, everything is sign, the world is no longer divided in presenting objects on the one side and representing signs on the other side: We can only perceive signs – the world is a pure semiotic one. In such a solipsist world, there is no real distinction between outside and inside, because the semiotic cosmos is closed by the capability of our perception. Cognitive Relativism thus explains satisfactorily, why we can imagine "unreal" objects like dragons, mermaids or unicorns (although perhaps nobody ever has seen them in the "real" world): They are created by our senses, they are – as signs – no more and no less "real" than trees, beer glasses or cars.

The relativism of the outside and inside is the basic topic of Chantal Akerman's movie "Toute une nuit": The director presents in 23 fragments couples whose relationships are centered outside or inside of doors and windows. According to Gaston Bachelard, the door is "the cosmos of half-openness": Doors can be open or closed, they mark the difference between outside and inside, and between are the thresholds. But doors normally do not have transparency, windows, however, do: they can be closed, but one can watch from the inside to the outside or vice versa. In abolishing the transparency by closing the curtains, they turn into doors. From this standpoint, mirrors cheat on windows, because they are not transparent.

In concentrating on the little spaces outside or inside of doors, we see only fragments of the lives of these couples: The half-openness does not let us decide which are the reasons of their separating, their being together or their reconciling: this decisions, too, stay half-open. But this movie does not only show fragments, it is a fragment of fragments itself, hence auto-logical. And this auto-logy goes along with the semiotic character of solipsist relativism: There are only certain types of signs, in which all reality can be coded, therefore, signs survive the reality (as perceived by our senses) only with loss of parts of quality. Signs are thus fragments of reality, which is thinned by our perception. Famous names of French philosophy such as Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Bruno Latour, Jean Baudrillard, Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and Paul Virilio are the fathers and mothers of the metaphysical background of "Toute une nuit" – a film which is therefore one of these movies that are not made for everybody.

The fore-mentioned Paul Virilio delivered also the theoretical background of the high-speed with which Chantal Akerman presents her fragments: Since signs are the remainders of quality that can be perceived after having been filtered from reality by our perception, the quantitative aspects are passing the qualitative ones. But this is good so: Franz Kafka wrote that everybody who would be capable of perceiving everything, would be dead instantly. The quantity of speed induced by our senses, the loss of quality induced by signs and the consolation given us by Cognitive Relativism that there are no menacing objects independent (and thus outside of control) of our senses turn out to be life-preserving.

But the most important question that arises is: What, if this fragmentary character of our life is only introduced by Aristotelian logic, in which there is only space for one subject – an "I" or a "thou", but not for both? In this case, Aristotelian logic must be replaced by a multi-valued logic which can take care of the disturbing fact that a "thou" is a "I" and thus a subject from its own standpoint, but an object from the standpoint of any other "I": The borders between subject and object are getting fluid, and thus contradict Aristotelian logic. Could it thus be that life is only fragmentary because all our activities are based on a fragmentary logic?

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