The Vast of Night (2020)


i want to believe. communications technology creates a space where the impossible becomes possible, a space where people can get a word in edgeways, where they quietly let things slip instead of rehashing gossip or bickering in circles around one another, especially people who would otherwise have no-one to talk to or nowhere to say what they have to say (these people tell stories about similar people who weren’t granted the privilege). the vast of night is the space of suspended implausibility between receivers, between a station and a radio set, the area of town that a camera can impossibly traverse when it’s handled with patterson’s fincher-esque formal brio. i felt like i was passing him reel after reel of unlabelled tapes in the blind hope that one of them would contain the next clue – i have to know but i also don’t want it to end. the suspense of possibility; plausibility be damned.

a couple of other points to counter what look to be common objections (having already mentioned the title above). ‘there’s too much talking/there’s nothing happening’: i found this very bracing because this is a film of patience and listening. the shadows are creepy but there’s really nothing there, you just need to listen and let the film give its characters the space to talk. it’s like radio itself, in a way. i also found the framing device to be too conspicuous to simply be a blatant pointer towards inspirations. the film keeps cutting back to the ‘tv set’ view as a distancing device, to remind you that the nuts and bolts of what you’re watching is effectively hokum, to make you reckon with whether or not you care. at these moments the film makes a bold pitch: it bets you’re in the same spot as its characters, ie. the edge of your seat. i think patterson can do more with some more substantial writing, for sure, but the conspicuous framing is another aspect of his all-round undeniable assuredness as a debutante.


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