Starring Anders Danielsen Lie, Denis Lavant, Golshifteh Farahani
Written by Jérémie Guez, Guillaume Lemans, Dominique Rocher
Directed by Dominique Rocher
The zombie subgenre is a fascinating one for me. It will experience a watershed moment where a burst of creativity will change the game and see filmmakers delve into uncharted territory heretofore unseen. It was done in 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, when George A. Romero created the shuffling, shambling walkers that have become the iconic vision of the undead. It was seen in 2002, when Danny Boyle’s virus-ravaged victims stalked England in 28 Days Later. Lately, we’ve seen it in 2016’s The Girl With All The Gifts or 2015’s Maggie, both titles adding emotion and humanity to the genre in ways that hadn’t been touched on prior, at least not in such a poignant manner. All of this is to say that Dominique Rocher’s La Nuit a Dévoré le Monde (aka The Night Eats The World) ranks up there as one of those zombie films that will stay with you long after the credits roll.
The film follows Sam (Lie), a man who goes to his ex-girlfriend’s party to pick up some of his belongings. After he falls asleep in her office, he wakes up to find the walls of her flat splattered with blood, furniture overturned, and chaos everywhere. He quickly learns that all of Paris is in chaos after zombies have taken over, so he locks down the apartment building and decides that he’s going to wait it out in the hopes that help will come. But as days turn into weeks, his own mind becomes as dangerous as the constant threat waiting just outside.
Much like this year’s A Quiet Place, The Night Eats The World does not rely itself upon dialogue but rather trusts the audience to put two and two together as Sam tries to build a life in this new world. He doesn’t need to talk in order for us to recognize his fear as he enters an apartment only to face off against a zombified family. He doesn’t have to articulate his fear of food as he rations everything. His growing loneliness is shown through his actions rather than his words as he desperately tries to fill his days with mundane activities to pass the time. It’s this trust in viewers that helps make this film so powerful and engaging.
Sam’s actions are believable and, in general, rather smart. This isn’t a character that makes one stupid decision after another yet miraculously escapes. When Sam does err, the consequences are felt and they have lasting impact. Furthermore, they all make sense. Everything Sam does is a believable action because of how carefully the story is written. Had some sequences played out earlier in the film, we would question them, rightfully so. But because they happen at their intended moments, we can empathize and recognize why they are done.
Essentially a single-character film, The Night Eats The World knows full well the dangers of making such an endeavor boring or tedious. Avoiding that, every scene has something to offer to the greater story. What we see early in the film has purpose later on, no matter how seemingly small or inconsequential.
The zombies that threaten Sam are undeniably fearsome creatures. Like 28 Days Later, they are fast and aggressive. However, the movie makes them out to react to sound, not visual stimuli, which is fascinating as they themselves are almost entirely silent; the only sounds they emit are from the creaking of their bones or the snapping of their jaws. Coated in blood and some unaware of their missing limbs, these are frightening creatures.
While the film is, for all intents and purposes, a one-setting film (the apartment building), there is still a sense of great scale to the scenario. Sam looks over a quiet and seemingly empty Paris from the rooftop where no chimneys emit steam or smoke, no planes fly overhead, and a once vibrant city is now silent as a tomb. His desolation stretches as far as the eye can see and we are a part of his loneliness.
Wonderfully realized, The Night Eats The World is the kind of film that challenges preconceived notions and never forgets the humanity that lives within us all.
The Night Eats The World is engaging, emotional, scary, and simply a masterpiece. This is the kind of movie that takes the tried and true subject of zombies and gives it a wonderful twist.