Friday, 5 July 2013

EIFF 2013: When Night Falls (Wo Hai You Hua Yao Shuo)

A stanch exposé of real-life injustice, When Night Falls dramatises the plight of Wang Jimnei, whose son Yang Jia was convicted of killing seven police officers following an earlier arrest for a petty misdemeanour. During his trial (and subsequent appeals), Yang’s mother was committed to a mental hospital under false pretences, preventing her from offering emotional or judicial support; by the time she was freed, Yang’s execution was a fait accompli.

These details are imparted early, in a detached but inventive opening sequence consisting of a photograph montage and matter-of-fact voiceover. The core drama then picks up Wang’s story the day she is discharged from hospital, with writer/director Ying Liang adopting a realist, docudrama aesthetic of naturally-lit, fixed-angle shots, with few edits to interrupt the raw emotions. Throughout, our perspective on events is carefully restricted (we don’t know why Yang did what he did precisely because, tragically, Wang doesn’t either – and indeed, never will), while Nai An is superb in the central role, conveying a grief compounded by impotence and – like the film itself – exuding a muted dignity despite the anger simmering inside.

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