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Concrete Night opens in a cramped, concrete-jungle home. The elder of the two brothers is getting ready to go and serve his prison sentence. During his last 24 hours of freedom, his little brother follows the brother he admires through the fateful sights of that night.Written by
Pirjo Honkasalo intended to film the novel already 10 years earlier and the project was already as far as that she had chosen the cast. However, other commitments with document films postponed this project. Among those chosen then was Jari Virman, who plays one of the leading roles in this film. See more »
The man photographs Simo with a camera in horizontal orientation, yet when Ilkka views those photos they appear to be in portrait orientation. See more »
An unusual art-film
Young Simo's (Johannes Brotherus) older brother Ilkka (Jari Virman) is to start a prison sentence for a minor crime the following day. We share their 24 hours together before Ilkka leaves for prison. Their mother is more focused on her social life than spending this last evening with her sons. Yet she instructs Simo to keep his older brother company. While rain intermittently sifts over grey Helsinki, the two brothers go to the city center for some fun, a drink or two. Back at their apartment a bored Simo goes out and starts chatting with the gay photographer living across the street. He invites Simo in, shows him some Wilhelm Von Gloeden prints and asks to photograph Simo. This would have serious consequences
This black-and-white film has a nihilistic, despairing mood like few others. This is a film of no hope: "If you're free of hope, you're free of everything", we are informed. Another movie sharing this ambiance is Lars Von Trier's unsettling 'Antichrist'. The theme of hopelessness is also explored in the excellent Macedonian film 'Mirage' (also known as 'Iluzija', 'Eat or be Eaten' or 'Seasons of Hope') by Svetozar Ristovski.
It becomes more than just hopelessness. In a disconcerting misanthropic vision the extinction of man is predicted, with scorpions and other lower order animals taking our place.
This sombre theme of hopelessness is captured effectively in monochrome visuals, where the contrast between light and dark is accentuated, with little grey in-between. Some of the scenes are presented as nightmarish visions, without any chance of escape. Whether you are trapped in a train carriage after the train derailed and plunged into a deep river, or whether you caused serious and irreversible harm to somebody, there is no escape. The nightmare becomes real.
I found the acting quite good. Although Simo is not a very talkative fellow, his body language and facial expressions in particular, say a lot. Simo, an introvert, is a true outsider. The more vocal Ilkka and their mother, and the photographer, give fine performances too. The soundtrack, mostly of classical nature, effectively adds to the gloomy ambiance of the film. This film's strengths however, are the excellent, unusual narrative, and especially the outstanding cinematography. Credit to cinematographer Peter Flinckenberg. Several of the scenes are surreal, such as the footage of the train in the river, with jellyfish swimming past; also the scenes when downy feathers drop from the sky or of Simo wiping the misted-up mirror clean. What attention to detail!
'Concrete Night' offers a lot of food for thought and is a film I will watch again. I score it a very good 8/10.
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