Directed by Dominique Rocher who co-wrote with Jérémie Guez and Guillaume Lemans and based on the novel by Pit Agarmen, La nuit a dévoré le monde, or The Night Eats the World in English, is a slow burn zombie film that is more about the mental state of its lead, a survivor, than about the carnage or the fear from the zombies themselves. Here the film explores themes of mental survival as well as physical survival, of loneliness, and of what one may be able to do when subjected to extreme circumstances. The setting in Paris is interesting as that the city is often viewed as a romantic destination and not one for survival and zombie attacks. The film spends a ton of time in this one apartment with this one person, looking at how he spends time once he’s come to terms with his situation and how he keeps himself from losing his mind, or at least tries to. His ways and his plight hit home. However, the film takes forever to get anywhere which works against it in quite a few spots where scenes run on for much longer than necessary which will certainly lose some viewers. The pacing of the film is deliberately slow, so this is to be expect but it may not work for all viewers.
Once the opening party is over, the cast is minimal, besides the random zombies, and composed of Anders Danielsen Lie as Sam, the lead, the man everything in this film revolves around. Supporting his work are Golshifteh Farahani as Sarah and Denis Lavant as Alfred. The relationships these characters bring to Sam’s life are very important in how his mental state evolves throughout the film and make a very important point about the human need to companionship. Here Anders Danielsen Lie has the bulk of the film resting on his shoulders and he does very well establishing a man who may already have been a bit lonely before the zombie situation and who finds as many ways to entertain himself and try to keep his mind sharp as he can. Anders Danielsen Lie gives him the right touches of emotions and lack thereof at times to fully flesh the character without him speaking all that much at first. Once Golshifteh Farahani and Denis Lavant come into the story, that changes the amount of dialogue of course but only so much, which shows the state of his character’s mental status. Golshifteh Farahani plays a character that is almost polar opposite to Anders Danielson Lie’s in how she looks at the situation and how she shows her emotions. She is a woman who has seen some things but she keeps it close to the vest for a reason that is later explained and adds a lot to how the lead deals with his situation at that point. Denis Lavant is fantastic in his limited part, giving a strong performance as is usually the case when he is involved in a film. His work here is no different and he brings a lot to the story and once again his presence influences how Anders Danielson Lie’s Sam deals with things and evolves. These three main performances here are strong and ground the film in a powerful artistry. So as to not forget the zombie performers, they are fun to watch but do not exactly rewrite the zombie performance book, which works here as the film is not actually about them but about Sam and about survival.
The film’s look here is very sober and a bit grey. The cinematography by Jordane Chouzenoux makes the most of the apartment Sam is living in and the building he sometimes explores as well as creates fantastic establishing shots of Paris. It’s clear it is in Paris, from the environment outside, mostly seen through windows, and the style of the apartment Sam lives in. The visual style here is consistent and works perfectly for the film’s themes and tone. Going with this is the music by David Gubitsch, his work here is mostly subtle and the choices of scenes that have a score versus the ones that do not is important in setting tone and mood. The lack of sound at times leads to greater feeling of loneliness and despair, like the world is devoid of everything for the lead; it is devoid of sounds for the most part for the viewers.
La nuit a dévoré le monde is an interesting entry in the zombie genre that uses some tropes but mostly is about the lead and his well-being, physical and mental, and how he deals with that. His life is a bit bland post zombies but that helps set the tone and mood for the film. The cinematography and music also help this greatly, assisting in getting the viewer to feel the same, even if it were just a little bit. The film does feel a bit overly long due to long scenes and sequences of not much happening but for those who do not mind those types of scenes, the film makes great points and says something without actually fully spelling it out, but by using feelings and emotions.
Fantasia 2018 runs from July 12th to August 2nd, 2018.