On the night of October 12-13, 2016, the French police of the Alpine Grenoble celebrate the resignation of the chief – his place is taken by the young but optimistic Yoan (Bastien Bouillon). A few hours later, in the provinces, an unidentified person will douse with gasoline and set fire to 21-year-old Clara (Lula Cotton-Frappier). There are a lot of suspects – a whole scattering of muddy exes, one of whom beats up the current girl, and the other even recorded a rap about how he would burn Clara alive.
Until a few years ago, French director Dominique Moll was primarily known as the author of the absurd comedy News from Planet Mars, about restarting the boring life of an IT guy. Now it is one of the top thriller makers in the country. Only two films were enough for retraining. In 2019, “Only the Animals” was released – a detective-puzzle about the interweaving of several destinies and the investigation of a murder in the wilderness. Three years later, first at the Cannes Film Festival, and then in the French box office, The Night of the 12th was shown – a rapturously received film that hit the country’s exposed nerve. It turns out that in recent years, France has been suffering due to femicide – murders of women motivated by gender hatred, a large percentage of which is associated with domestic violence.
“The Night of the 12th” begins with a title: the creators inform the viewer that every fifth murder in France remains unsolved, the film is dedicated to one of them. The spoiler in the prologue causes an ambiguous effect – you realize with disappointment that the film will probably end with a meaningful ellipsis, but while watching, you still catch yourself thinking that justice must prevail. Alas, no. The somewhat ridiculous localized name turns out to be true – the murder will remain a mystery. However, in this mystery and the process of deciphering lies the main advantage of the film. Most detectives are somehow devoted to the transformation of investigators: some only violate the norms of laws and morality in order to catch the culprit, others themselves turn into monsters. Moll’s film is located somewhere between two planes: the search for Clara’s killer convinces Ioan of the excessive bureaucracy of the system, and also kills his optimism, faith in humanity, and especially men.
The Night of the 12th is a pro-feminist movie devoid of campaign slogans, performative progressiveness, and cheap tricks for earning social points. Once again, Ioan, who has reached a dead end, will weakly say that all the men at once are guilty of Clara’s murder, and one of the heroines will notice how secondary women are: they are only killed, and then some men chase after others. Seemingly obvious reflections are backed up by a realistic representation of slut shaming and victim blaming — people around traditionally look for the motive for the murder in the wrong behavior of the victim: many sexual partners, revealing clothes and too bright a life. Thanks to this dangerous logic, the death of women is closed not only in France, but in other countries of the world.
Attempts to go into realism and create a mundane detective story are commendable, but they have one significant drawback – the absence of episodes classic for the genre: no chases for suspects, intense interrogations and mysterious shots with trees swaying in the wind. In this regard, Moll’s film is deceptively simple, like a television procedural filmed according to the patterns of aloof Scandinavian film noirs. Although at the most unexpected moment, the director is able to surprise – what is the cross influx in the style of the final episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return. “The Night of the 12th” does not diagnose patriarchy and, thank God, does not indulge in any metaphysics of evil – it just shows the terrible everyday life, leaving disappointing conclusions for the viewer. Yes, not all men are capable of rape and murder, but there are still frighteningly many of them – and the crimes of many of them will go unpunished.