SPECIAL SCREENING By Day And By Night
This film was screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June 2011.
Alejandro Molina’s first feature film has received mixed reviews since it premièred at the Morelia Film Festival last year. A bleak tale filmed in subdued hues of grey and blue, it presents its own interpretation of a dystopian future; an idea which seems to have become something of a sub-genre within science fiction.
Set in the future, where overpopulation has placed a serious strain on planet Earth, the increase in the number of people has made it almost impossible for humans to be able to work and live comfortably within the limited space. Kept in the confines of an enclosed metropolis, people are warned of the dangers that lurk outside the city’s walls, their escape being an infeasible option.
As a means to compensate for the increasing impossibility of coexistence, a leading scientist and doctor (Marius Biegai) is instructed by the repressive ruling class known as “the Leaders” to create an enzyme which can be injected directly into a patient’s DNA, thus allowing them to be regulated by light or darkness. This phenomenon forms the potential answer to the problem, as it enables the population to be divided into two separate shifts: one that operates only during the day, the other, night, with the transgression from one to the other being impossible.
When Aurora (Sandra Echeverría), a young woman of the day shift wakes one morning, she is distraught to learn that her daughter, Luna, has been taken away for a reason unbeknownst to her. When she discovers that she has been switched to the night shift, and now under the care of a night doctor named Urbano (Manuel Balbi), she transgresses order by visiting the pair as they lie asleep. What ensues is a powerful examination into what it is that makes us human and the lengths that one would go in order to keep this a possibility…
By Day And By Night is a great achievement for Mexican cinema; it illustrates that the country has the ability to compete with the likes of Hollywood in what it can offer the world of science-fiction. Ingrained with multifaceted philosophical concerns, it subtly questions the ethical problems of forcibly restricting a person’s freedom, something that is brilliantly realised in the lead characters, who are stripped down to their base instinctual desires. Moving scenes conveying the alien concept of family are beautifully realised with a mix of tears and frustration; the discovery of love forming a quintessential part of this new found revelation.
Arguably, Sandra Echeverría steals the show in the superb way that she portrays a mother separated from her child – her mix of frustration and sorrow delivered in equally proportioned amounts. Her gradual love that develops for the character Urbano is incredibly moving, especially given that she is unable to spend time with him, whilst he is conscious due to their differing shifts.
A quietly powerful film, it contains very little dialogue, thus allowing for continued reflection on its absorbing themes. Its striking cinematography emphasises the juxtaposition of the power of nature against the lifeless interior of the metropolis, a feature that is visible in scenes of a scorching sun and waves crashing against rocks on the one hand and the monotone featureless architecture that makes up the city on the other. Culminating in fifteen minutes of no dialogue whatsoever, the film remains contemplative until the very end, an acclamation to the motif that silence speaks louder than words.
However, after initial consideration, one begins to look beyond the stunning cinematography and austere costumes and realise that much of what the film has to offer is nothing that we haven’t seen before – and better executed in some of the brilliant science-fiction films of the 1970s. Its ideas of a nation made ignorant by the ruling classes, restricting them of their free will and forcing them to all wear the same clothes and act in the same fashion sees much resemblance to films such as Michael Anderson’s Logan’s Run and Michael Radford’s 1984. The discovery of truth and humanity’s true purpose in life, though well executed in By Day And By Night, is anything but a new concept.
Its slow pace will also prove too troublesome for some as it requires a certain degree of patience whilst its story unfolds. For those uninterested or unwilling to reflect on the film’s pressing themes, it may appear to move at a speed that is insufficient for retaining one’s concentration.
It is undoubted that By Day And By Night contains a number of powerful ideas expressed through strong cinematography and impressive acting performances, but it remains difficult to allow the film full credit when it lacks the originality necessary for making it a brilliant piece of cinema.
A fantastic debut from Spanish director Juan Antonio
Bayona, The Orphanage is a good old-fashioned ghost…
Film: Shadows Of Forgotten Ancestors Release date:
10th May 2010 Certificate: 15 Running time: 92 mins…
Film: My Father Pablo Escobar Release date: 12th
July 2010 Certificate: Exempt Running time: 90 mins…