Compressed into the course of a single night in Brussels, various couples interact, some of them strangers, many of them grabbing at each other across a gulf of loneliness or fear—perhaps fear of loneliness. In All Night Long, Belgian minimalist Chantal Äkerman gives the impression of having cut into a series of dramas, each at its highest point, when someone is leaving with someone, someone is leaving someone, or someone is returning to or reuniting with someone. Each drama is unique, and yet each is structured by similar emotional imperatives that consign it to an identical pattern of behavior. We may not see our lives in the film’s vignettes, but we see our longings and concerns, feel them refreshed, and find them clarified by the intensity of their expression.
Instead of a safely potted narrative plant, Äkerman gives us a plethora of seemingly random narrative shoots. These bits of life reflect how we experience our own lives. Characters are let go of for a while and picked up again. While her husband soundly sleeps, a woman noisily packs her bag right on the bed and leaves him, goes to a hotel, but returns home at dawn defeated, gets back into bed just in time for the ringing alarm clock to presumably awaken her, as well as him. For years I took exception to this artificial aspect, this miniature story, but now I find that it underscores by contrast the different method of the rest of Äkerman’s formally rigorous yet open-ended film.
Äkerman’s characters aren’t an exclusive bunch. They represent a range of ages, live in houses and apartments, include same-sex couples (a volatile pair of gals, a tender pair of guys).
Encapsulating the passion of Toute une nuit is a recurring Italian pop tune, “L’amore perdonera.”
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