Locarno review: Last Night (2023)

Locarno Film Festival
Pardi di Domani Swiss Competition

You immediatelly notice when a woman is behind a script that deals with woman’s experiences of trauma. Explanations are gone and the story flows self-sufficiently, characters come across as believable and dialogues sound natural. This is completely the case in Lea Bloch’s clever, both powerful and empowering drama Last Night that world premieres in the Swiss Competition of Pardi Di Domani.

When four male and four female friends meet separately to catch up on the latest over drinks, what starts as a normal, teenage curious inquiry about a hook-up from the night before, ends up as a serious talk about conscent . The casual, cheerful atmosphere gradually transforms into doom and gloom. Samira (Mina Geisseler) at first refuses to speak about her – at that point still called one-night-stand, and her friends, knowing her in a completely different light, won’t let go of the subject. But when they realize that there is something serious behind her veil of silence they become insistant to break it. All three girls have different reactions to Samira’s eventual account of the events.

On the other side of the text message line (one of Samira’s friends Zoe is updating her boyfriend Michi on the development) the “boys” discuss the same thing with Gian, who also doesn’t willingly admit to having had something with Samira. The cross-cutting takes us from one discussion to the other thus building a dialogue with spiraling dynamics, and a strong impact on the viewer. As it turns out, not all boys will be boys including Gian himself, who is aware of his crime, and even more so of the potential consequences. When the discussion gets heated and Michi starts questioning the alleged one-night-stand by asking the right things, the host decides to lock himself in the bathroom to hide real emotions.

The cast of this skilfully told story about guilt, regrets and trauma is excellent, and the script rich in fine details. Furthermore, Natascha Vavrina’s lens accentuats protagonists’ emotions and reactions through close-ups and medium-shots. Interesting is the difference in colour palettes used in Samira’s and Gian’s respective apartments: yellow versus blue, enhancing the right type of emotional expression – the supprotive versus defensive. A seemingly complicated recipe for steering up emotions and then showing them in their purest form without many words spilled seems to be working perfectly well in Lea Bloch’s hands. It success lies in creating characters full of raw energy, true to what we know and recognize from our own experiences, at least in terms how people react when they hear something unpleasant, and/ or questionable from their close friends.

Behind Last Night is almost an all-female team, from its writer/ director to the cinematographer, editor and sound & light professionals, a solid proof of enough talent out there to make things run smoothly without male help.

Original Title: Letzte Nacht
Country: Switzerland
Year: 2023
Runtime: 15′
Written/ Directed by: Lea Bloch
Cinematography: Natascha Vavrina
Production company: Sarah Baumeler
Producers: Sarah Baumeler, Lea Bloch
Editor: Eleonora Camizzi
Light: Michaela Theus
Sound/ Sound Design/ Sound Editing/ Sound Mixing: Maya Baur
Colour Grading: Simon Hardegger
Music: Danitsa ‘Captain’
Cast: Mina Geisseler, Pablo Caprez, Timon Kiefer, Julie Rüfli, Alex Gut, Benie Loudie Matumona, Benjamin Dangel, Ali Kandas