Dominik Moll • Director of The Night of 12

“The main character needed to question his own attitude, as a man, towards women”

– CANNES 2022: The Franco-German filmmaker’s new film is an all-encompassing police investigation reflecting a frayed society and broken gender relations

(©Fanny de Gouville)

Back on the Croisette, where he had previously presented Harry, he’s here to help and Lemming [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
in competition in 2000 and 2005, Dominique Moll conquered the public with The night of 12 [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Dominik Moll
film profile
]
which was unveiled in the Cannes Première section of the 75th Cannes film festival.

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Cineuropa: What attracted you to Pauline Guéna’s book 18.3. A year at PJwho inspired you to do The night of 12?
Dominique Moll: He was noticed thanks to a sentence underlined in the book and which also appears in the film: “at the judicial police, it is said that each investigator has a crime which haunts him”. This aroused my curiosity; I thought it was interesting and bought it. It’s not a novel, but it’s not journalism either, because there’s a really fictional side to it. Anyway, I was reading it, but I didn’t see a movie in it, and I also thought that there had already been so many series covering this particular ground, until the last two chapters covering the investigation which figure in The Night of 12and: The murder of Clara and the investigator Yohann who was and is still obsessed with this case because it is not solved. There were some incredible aspects to this investigation that I found quite fictional, like when the case is reopened three years later, with the hideout, the hidden camera in the fake tombstone, and the man doing strange things on Clara’s grave, although it turns out it wasn’t him either… What I really liked is that we don’t know who did that, because it’s an angle you don’t often see, except in Zodiac, in a certain way. Usually, when there is a police investigation, the culprit is finally found, that is what the public expects, in any case. But not in this case, and it encourages us to focus elsewhere.

You set the tone immediately, indeed, with the text stating that the matter remains unsolved.
We introduced the text after several initial versions of the script. We got people to read it and the feedback was pretty positive, but a lot of them were frustrated that they didn’t know who made it in the end. We have therefore added this text as an introduction to the debate, stating that we cannot find the culprit. But even with that in mind, people kind of forget about it while watching the movie. But setting the tone in this way allows us to explore the daily lives of these investigators, their frustration and their group life. But my co-writer Gilles Marchand very quickly realized that the real common thread was male-female relations and what they weren’t quite right, relating it to male violence against women. We absolutely didn’t want it to feel forced and people say “oh look, a couple of 60 year old men trying to get on board the MeToo movement and pretending they’re modern” (laughs). It had to be more subtle than that, but the main character’s journey had to take him to a place where he begins to question his own attitude, as a man, towards women, such as when he is challenged by the victim’s friend: what does it matter if she slept with one person or another? Surely that insinuates that she was asking? This is where Yohanna realizes that he might be caught up in the wrong kind of thinking without realizing it; his certainties begin to weaken and he begins to change and see things differently. He realizes that to change the masculine world of police investigations, he must first make it less masculine but also accept the help of women who can bring something different to the table.

The film is a thriller, a genre you’ve always loved, but it’s also a reflection of a society.
It’s an ideal result when you manage to combine the two elements, although thrillers that don’t reflect society can work well too. But my interest in cinema was influenced by Hitchcock and there are still some aspects of it: playing with feelings and suspense, etc. The advantage of genre films – thrillers, detective films, horror films, etc. means viewers pretty much know what they are going to get. So you can use all of this while introducing social themes more easily, without making thesis films out of them. This allows us to transport viewers elsewhere.

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(Translated from French)

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