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good night muriel d'ansembourg bafta

   On a stereotypical Tuesday afternoon, thunderstorms overhead and shoes miserably soggy, I’m happily distracted by the cinematic highs of the BAFTA short film selections at the ICA. While credit must be given to Ramsay’s haunting winner, ‘Swimmer’, Boulifa’s deeply troubled story of ‘The Curse’ and Barrington’s hilarious and full bodied ‘Tumult’, it was Muriel D’Ansembourg’s ‘Good Night’ that struck gold.

   ‘Good Night’ is an intimate portrait of two 14-year-old girls, Rachel and Chloe, on a rebellious night out on the town. Trying hard to impress with increasing flashes of leg, experimental vodka-soaked tampons and a questionable video lesson on ‘sexy’ dancing, they embark on a journey neither they nor us will ever forget.


   As Rachel (Anna Hogarth) and Chloe (Rosie Day) explore the darker depths of our city, their encounters with its men do not leave them untouched. First come a rowdy couple of ‘blokes’ trying to corner them in an alleyway. Then, stumbling into the equation comes Ian – the unintentional knight in shining armour – charming in the eyes of two scared girls. Ian’s character is written, cast and acted to perfection, balancing innocence with an edge of danger. As the antagonistic hero, he is both the story’s kind saviour and borderline villain. It is here onward that the film earns its credit, where (to quote D’Ansembourg);

‘…The boundaries between innocent play and dangerous seduction start to blur, the girls find themselves pulled between what they think they want and what they can truly handle’.

   Thus, this is a story of two people spontaneously and fleetingly caught up in a moment of equal sexual curiosity, which begs its audience to question its own principles. It dithers on the social margins of sexual abuse – of an older man assaulting an underage girl in a car parked somewhere ‘quiet’, perhaps, – but also of a fully conscientious girl crossing into womanhood, desperate to explore her emerging sexuality. ‘Good Night’ shows us the other side of a frequently explored story, questioning the position of the men involved and casting a sympathetic light.


   What begins as a stereotypical example of peer pressure, combined with the effect of a built up exposure to the media’s explicit ‘sexiness’, ‘Good Night’ is much, much more. Chloe’s teasingly erotic dances come off as crude and pitifully childish – much as their glitter smudged eyelids and sequined bra straps are painful reminders of their adolescence. The performances from Hogarth and Day are honest and seem, for the most part, incredibly natural. After all, who among us did not revel in our sexualities at an age where the law seems painfully suffocating on ones exploration?

   Avoiding the ‘R’ word, the story skirts around the obvious issues at play – painting an honest and sometimes uncomfortable picture of a coming-of-age. Among a saturated market of hormonal-teenager stories, ‘Good Night’ captures both the naivety of youth and the sober indulgence of sexuality, knowledge and above all, a yearning for experience.

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Photos by Luke Varley.

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