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by Peter Brunner

grade: 7

The particular contemplative mood of To the Night is quite appealing. Despite his young age and his limited experience behind the camera, Peter Brunner has the great ability to stage, in a very personal and sincere way, a deep inner torment that is extremely difficult to analyse.

Dark past

After the experimental film The Children of the Dead (already presented at the 69th Berlinale, before being selected for the Diagonale 2019), the famous Austrian film director Ulrich Seidl has decided to produce (or, in this case, it would be better to say co-produce) a further feature film shot with US crew. We are talking about To the Night, directed by the young Viennese Peter Brunner and – also designed to have an international scope – made almost entirely in the United States.

Yet, as a versatile mind, Ulrich Seidl is open to any kind of film genre when it comes to producing. And although the aforementioned The Children of the Dead – based on Elfriede Jelinek’s novel of the same name – is a highly experimental film, To the Night is something completely different.

Here, in fact, is staged the inner drama of young Norman (an excellent Caleb Landry Jones), who, with a very loving partner and recently become a father, risks ruining – in his own words – everything he loves, due to a painful childhood trauma in which his parents were burnt to death in a fire in his home, unintentionally caused by himself.

His life is made up of light and many, many shadows, as the title suggests, and as the sophisticated cinematography, which has made the play of light its workhorse, also shows. Norman’s life thus takes place practically at night, in pubs or in his workshop, where he usually creates singular artworks, also inspired by the past. His only welcome company in times of crisis is his brother, who is also highly traumatised, with no job and no place to go.

The inner torment of Norman, the protagonist of To the Night, is therefore staged by Brunner with close-ups and extreme close-ups. Everything is shot exclusively with a handheld camera. Thus, faces prematurely furrowed by wrinkles, slowly inhaled cigarettes, needles entering the skin, as well as views of New York City as a silent spectator of the drama, are practically omnipresent in To the Night, where everything takes place in the dark or in the twilight.

In this respect, the only moments in which we see a faint – but, at the same time, blinding – sunlight are those in which Norman is playing with his son (after leaving the hospital), in which he meets with his young lover Luna and in which he finally decides to move on.

An intense and claustrophobic drama, To the Night is almost like a stream of consciousness. A continuous dialogue between Norman and his ghosts of the past which, from time to time, is only interrupted by moments in which his partner suffers from the situation and at the same time takes care of their newborn son.

The contemplative mood of the film works particularly well in this regard. In spite of his young age and his limited experience behind the camera, Peter Brunner has the great ability to stage, in a very personal and sincere way, a multifaceted inner torment that is certainly difficult to analyse. And although at times the film seems to talk to itself, to the point of seeming almost redundant, the situation is immediately resolved in no time.

Peter Brunner’s talent seems to promise many, many more surprises. And if even Ulrich Seidl has noticed…

Original title: To the Night
Directed by: Peter Brunner
Country/year: Austria / 2018
Running time: 102’
Genre:drama, romance
Cast: Caleb Landry Jones, Eléonore Hendricks, Jana McKinnon, Christos Haas, Abbey Lee
Screenplay: Peter Brunner
Cinematography: Daniel Katz
Produced by: FreibeuterFilm, Loveless, Ulrich Seidl Filmproduktion GmbH

Info: the page of To the Night on