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Synopsis: NIGHT is a stunning and cinematic feature that explores the universal nature of night and how we experience it. People and places, urban and rural, are reflected in its wonder. It captures the mystery, mood and magic of the night and weaves these images into a lush and dramatic symphonic score. Voices from all walks of life tell stories of their ‘affair’ with the night – the pleasure and the pain, reality and fantasy, at work and leisure, past and present – cutting across the aural and visual landscape.

Night holds many pleasures. For some, it’s when we come alive, the time we feel we live our real lives, seeking leisure or at home after a long day at work. Night is filled with celebrations which mark the passage of time – birthdays, anniversaries, dinners, family outings, sporting events, fireworks, the movies, travel, love and sex. NIGHT captures the essence of our lives between dusk and the dawn of a new day.

Genre

Documentary

Rated

NR - Treat as PG

Language

English

Run Time

82 min minutes

Starring

Directed by

Lawrence Johnston

Written by

Lawrence Johnston

Produced by

Lizzette Atkins
Lawrence Johnston

Edited by

Bill Murphy

Composer

Cezary Skubiszewski

Director's Statement

The night and nocturnal have always been something which have fascinated me. The concept of Night is incredible. It’s a universal thing to us all that we can’t escape. The film of NIGHT is the same, no matter where you are in the world you can experience its beauty and emotion. NIGHT is a mixture of the epic and the intimate.

At the end of every day of our lives, we have to face the night. We have to leave our place of work. We have to end something. There is this wonderful thing that happens when darkness falls and permeates our lives, which affects the way we look at the world, the way we feel our way around in it, visually, psychologically, in our behaviour and the choices we make about our lives at night. I love the night and night life. The night is a very romantic time in many ways. I have always been interested in the history of the illumination of the world and as time moves on this illumination is also something, which needs to be looked at in terms of our global resources. It was just amazingly rich territory to actually think of making a film about.

The ambition was to make a beautiful and cinematic film, which would appeal to a wide audience. I wanted to stay away from the kind of material you see on television every night of the week, which exploits and perpetuates fear of darkness and the night. I wanted the film to be a positive celebration of all that is night.

NIGHT has subject matter that is all encompassing. There are little threads of all of our lives throughout the film that you can either relate to not, it’s not one specific story. You experience an immense array of imagery of people and places that are familiar, but are fresh, by the way that we actually look at the film through the through the camera lens that captures the beauty of night. What I was trying to do is imbue the film with feeling and that when you see NIGHT that you feel something about your life and humanity.

I think people are different at night. Because societal structures, the majority of the population spends it’s time working during the day. It is at night when people tend to spend time with family and friends, enjoy life and let their defenses down. On the other hand people are generally more fearful at night, scared of the dark or places and spaces, which in the daytime would not elicit the same responses. People have a strong feeling of vulnerability at night whether conscious or not, whether awake or asleep. I do believe that the world events since September 11, 2001 have created a subliminal and sometimes overt element of fear in society in general. Notions of difference, whether cultural or behavioral, feel as though they come under more scrutiny or suspicion now more than ever, especially under the cover of darkness.

The aspect of people being interviewed for Night was a complex one. I was asked a few times, what is this person’s night “story”. Are they an authority on the night? To me it bought up the question, who is an authority on the night? I mean if someone is a night worker, you know if you work on the roads at night or you work in a bar, or whatever, then you would have a connection to the night because of your work.

And that would give you an idea about how you feel about the night maybe more than someone else who works in an office all day, every day and has done for most of their life. I wanted the stories to be like a village of voices from the ordinary to the specific so I interviewed a wide cross section of people from all walks of life. I think we all have a connection to the night whether or not we are conscious of it or not.
I am always surprised when going to the country and finding on clear nights how beautiful the illumination of the land is at night. It is such an amazing phenomena whether it is from the light of a full moon or just the general ambience of light present from other sources. While architects design night lighting for city buildings more and more. I believe there are also movements by astronomers to have the light levels in cities reduced at night so that we may see the stars of the universe more clearly. It has been great to be able to capture some of this in the film.

Two major aspects in planning the film were the photographic and the music. My interest in photography and the cinematic always drives me. I love the work of Gordon Willis, MANHATTAN, David Lynch’s BLUE VELVET and LOST HIGHWAY, Michael Curtiz’s MILDRED PIERCE, Otto Preminger’s LAURA, Richard Brook’s IN COLD BLOOD, Martin Scorsese’s AFTER HOURS and John Cassavettes OPENING NIGHT. All films with a large part of them set at night and the photographic representation of the night is a large part of our enjoyment.

All of my films have very concentrated photographic styles and my collaborations with cinematographers Dion Beebe (CHICAGO, MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA) on ETERNITY, and Mandy Walker (LANTANA, AUSTRALIA) on my first feature film LIFE, have resulted in visually distinctive work which always advances the content and narrative of the films. Both of these cinematographers were unavailable to shoot NIGHT and so I looked for someone with similarities of ambition in image making. Laurie McInnes who shot NIGHT also shares a fascination with the night and made a wonderful time-exposure film called PALLISADE which won the Camera D’or at Cannes. Laurie was the ideal person to realize my vision for NIGHT. Many photographic images were referenced throughout pre-production, still and moving imagery from the work of Berenice Abbott, Brassai, Weegee, William Klein, Helen Levitt, Godfrey Reggio, David Moore, Max Dupain and O.Winston Link who have all documented aspects of society at night.
Cezary Skubeszewski has created and amazing score for NIGHT. This was an integral part of the film from the outset. The score is ambitious and unlike other scores where there may be a couple of themes which recur throughout the film. Cezary created 20 pieces of music specifically for the film in various styles. The score was recorded in Poland and Melbourne after a long process of collaboration between myself and Editor Bill Murphy within the structure and visual styles in the film.

We came up against a few problems in shooting locations for NIGHT. Because of the combination of a media savvy public and the changes in the world due to terrorism we found people reluctant to be photographed or suspicious of us when we were set up in a public place. It was imperative that we were able to observe society in many facets otherwise the film would not be as rich in it’s human content and could have been less accessible.

There has been a strong history internationally of these symphonic sound and image films. Some wonderful landmark films in this style, which explore and document human life include THE CITY (1926) Alberto Cavalcanti, BERLIN, SYMPHONY OF A CITY (1927) Walter Ruttmann, MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (1929) Dziga Vertov, SYMPHONY OF A CITY (1948), Arne Sucksdoorf, IN THE STREET (1952) Helen Levitt, NY NY (1957), Francis Thompson, LESSONS OF DARKNESS (1992) Werner Herzog and KOYANNISQUATSI by Godrey Reggio.

I believe that NIGHT is an exciting, compelling and distinctive film which has international appeal. I found great beauty in making NIGHT and hope that this beauty will be found by audiences in experiencing the night wherever we might be in the world.

Lawrence Johnston

Director's Bio

Lawrence Johnston is an internationally award-winning Writer, Director and Producer who began his career as a Film Repairer at 20th Century-Fox. He is a graduate of the prestigious Swinburne Film and Television School in Melbourne Australia with a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Television. He has worked in both drama and documentary. His first film, the short dramatic feature, NIGHT OUT was an Official Selection at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival (Un Certain Regard) and named ‘one of the year’s ten best’ in the New York Village Voice.

He followed this with the short feature ETERNITY which won the Best Feature Award at the Los Angeles International Documentary Association and Best Cinematography at the 1995 Australian Film Institute Awards for Oscar Winning Cinematographer Dion Beebe (CHICAGO, MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA), and was named ‘one of the year’s ten best’ in WHO Magazine.

His debut feature film LIFE won the FIPRESCI International Critic’s Prize at the 1997 Toronto Film Festival and was nominated for four Australian Film Institute Awards and four Australian Film Critic’s Circle Awards including Best Actor, Best Screenplay, Best Editing and Best Cinematography for Mandy Walker (LANTANA, AUSTRALIA).

Lawrence’s work has been shown in major retrospectives on Australia Cinema at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He recently completed three films, THE DREAM OF LOVE and ONCE A QUEEN, both for SBS Television as well as his second feature, NIGHT which he wrote, directed and co-produced. NIGHT had its international premiere at The 2007 Toronto International Film Festival was In Competition at IDFA. Lawrence is currently in development on the following projects – THE HISTORY OF NEON, the feature drama LOVE OF YOUR LIFE, the feature documentary FALLOUT based on Nevil Shute’s famous novel, ON THE BEACH as well as the ABC drama series MONEY BUSINESS.

Awards

Toronto International Film Festival - Canada - 2007

Critics Prize (Lawrence Johnston)

Screen Music Awards - USA - 2008

Best Music for a Documentary (Cezary Skubiszewski)

Nominations

International Film Music Critics Award (IFMCA) - International - 2009

IFMCA Award for Best Original Score for a Documentary Film

IDFA (International Documentary Festival Amsterdam) - Netherlands - 2007

Joris Ivens Award

Official selection

Toronto International Film Festival - Canada - 2007

IDFA (International Documentary Festival Amsterdam) - Netherlands - 2007

Melbourne International Film Festival - Australia - 2007

Brisbane International Film Festival - Australia - 2007

Shanghai International Film Festival - China - 2008

Quotes

“A magical mystery tour into the nocturnal”

- Variety

”Wildly romantic"

- Noah Cowan, Toronto International Film Festival

Country of Origin

Australia

Production Year

2007

Aspect Ratio

1.78 : 1 / 1.85 : 1

Medium

35mm

Official Website

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