Every year, being at major festivals in Poland, I come across a film that stays in my memory for a long time and thanks to that I regain faith in the cinema. I had such an emotional reaction during the screening of Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey into Night, which was very warmly received during this year’s festival in Cannes.
A new film by a talented Chinese has been divided into two parts. The first, melancholic, dreamy-maunder noir style, reminiscent of Wong Kar Wai’s cinema in some places, and the second, filmed in one shot 3D sequence, delighting with magical realism. The first one is a kind of record of sleep, projection of memories and a preview of what will happen in the future. The second, starting from the moment when the hero, Liu Hongwu, sits in a cinema hall, is the embodiment of the hero’s subconsciousness. Elements known from the melodrama and detective cinema mix with each other, creating a charismatic atmosphere that will not be forgotten for a long time.
In the narrative layer, Long Day’s Journey into Night is a story about the search for lost love, longing, sadness, loneliness (I have already paid attention to the topic of alienation and depiction of lonely characters in slow cinema many times). In this search, the dream mingles reality and the present with the past, so you can’t be sure if something really happened.
30-year-old director is balancing on the edge of reality very well. He can hypnotize the viewer, strengthen the projection-identification (3D works very strongly here), the viewer’s bond with the hero and the impression of intermingling worlds: film, dream and the one in the cinema. The viewer will feel that he moves smoothly from one world to another.
The moment when the hero enters the cinema hall is the exact moment of contact with his own self. From now on, we will be watching a perfectly executed hour-long mastershot, not sure if it is a spell cast on us by the creator, heroe’s oneiric vision, or magical reality. From now on, the hero’s dream becomes our dream, his memories our memories. It turns out that it is still possible to build a very strong immersion based only on narrative and brilliant use of available resources.
You can’t forget about space either. Crumbling buildings, places intended for demolition are not only a reflection of the internal life of alienated characters, but also a subtle image of small, abandoned Chinese villages – perhaps this is the reason why Long Day’s Journey into Night struggled with Chinese censorship.
Undoubtedly, this is one of the best films that I had the pleasure to see during this year’s New Horizons Film Festival. It mesmerized me, had me in the edge of my seat, and left me dreaming of flying, rotating homes and lost love.