The Night of the 12th (La Nuit du 12)


Cameo Cinema, Edinburgh

Written by Gilles Marchand and directed by Dominik Moll, The Night of the 12th features few of the traditional tropes we might expect to find in a crime procedural. It’s based around an (unsolved) real-life murder and, though it occasionally gives the impression that there may be a satisfying solution waiting for us at the film’s conclusion, it steadfastly refuses to supply one. Here is a story that is far more interested in the effects that a crime has on those assigned to investigate it than in the crime itself. It’s a brave decision on the part of the filmmakers but one that – for me at least – feels suspiciously like a game-changer.

It’s the night of October 12th 2016 and Clara (Lula Cotton-Frapier) leaves the house of her friend, Stéphanie (Pauline Serieys), in the picturesque mountain village of Grenoble, to walk the short distance home. But on her way back, she’s approached by a masked stranger, who flings petrol into her face and sets her ablaze. Her body is discovered the following morning, burned almost beyond recognition.

Newly appointed police chief Yohan Vivès (Bastien Boullion) is assigned to head up the resulting murder investigation, assisted by his close friend, irascible older cop, Marceau (Bouli Lanners). Marceau is currently having serious marital issues, which make him even more unpredictable than usual and Yohan spends much of his time reigning in Marceau’s excesses. Yohan also makes a mess of breaking the news of the murder to Clara’s mother.

The team of investigators soon uncover a whole parade of suspicious males, many of whom have, at some point, enjoyed a sexual relationship with Clara. They range from a toxic bully, who has been previously arrested for beating up a girlfriend; a local weirdo living in a squat close to the murder scene; and a rapper, who has openly threatened to ‘burn’ Clara in the lyrics of one of his recorded songs, available to view on YouTube. But what initially promises to be an open and shut case keeps leading the team of investigators along a series of dead ends and, as the days, months and years slip inexorably by, Yohan is increasingly affected by his total inability to make any headway with the case…

The Night of the 12th exerts a powerful grip and its overarching theme appears to be a meditation on the nature of evil. It also explores an awful truth: that it is generally men who commit such terrible crimes against women, and it’s also mostly men who are tasked with solving them. When a new female judge (Anouk Grinberg) takes over, Yohan finds himself reinvigorated by her presence and ready to give the case one last push. But is it a change that’s come too late to be of any help?

Dark, brooding and mysterious, The Night of the 12th will surely infuriate those who prefer their mysteries to have a definitive answer, but it manages to keep me hooked right up to the final frame and, for me, that’s enough to recommend it as one to watch. I’ll be the first to acknowledge, however, that the film won’t be for everyone. Watch this for the journey rather than for the final destination.

4.2 stars

Philip Caveney


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