By Zara Saeed
Directed by Mikko Kuparinen
Montréal World Film Festival review
Mikko Kuparinen’s intelligent and beautifully shot drama is a prime reminder of the beauty of independent cinema and its profound emotional impact, even with the simplest of plots. He proves that cinema doesn’t need a classical Hollywood narrative or intensely complicated plot line to strike a chord with the viewer. Typically films of this type focus on real problems in the real world that affect real people and 2 Nights Till Morning is no different.
That said, not a whole lot happens in the film in terms of the setting (since it’s primarily set in an obscure Lithuanian hotel) but it is the connotations of first impressions in an unlikely romance that keeps you hooked throughout. From the protagonist, Caroline, taking her hair down and the camera plunging out of her workaholic headspace, symbolically relishing in the surroundings as she does, to the modest but famous Jaakko revealing he has a child; both the director and actors brilliantly depict the complexities of dealing with life, relationships and achieving dreams whilst maintaining a living. Perhaps these aspects of life lend themselves to an emotional emptiness that both Caroline and Jaakko share, prompting a connection as they start to open up to each other – which is harder for the defensive and stern protagonist in particular.
Kuparinen’s perfect characterisation of Caroline highlights a modern, working woman who embarks on impulsive one night stands that she keeps from her French partner back in Paris. It is interesting how generic gender roles and stereotypes that many are conditioned to believe, are completely usurped. Jaakko is the committed father, who has not considered a proper relationship since his wife left him yet maintains his status as a well-known musician; compared to Caroline who is extremely promiscuous to say the least. Her infidelity and secretiveness towards Jaakko and her partner Celine is refreshing, since we are not offered a protagonist that we sympathise with right away. Kuparinen challenges the notion that there is an ideal or normal way to live life that we should all aspire to in some way or another, by depicting this ‘clash’ between the two characters.
Some of the most compelling scenes are centred on this argument – the numerous twists and revelations that distances the two despite their obvious connection with one another. The contrast of the viewer’s first impressions of each character is mirrored theirs – for instance, we are quick to judge Jaakko as a successful DJ and heartthrob, yet his kind nature is apparent from the beginning. Similarly, we don’t empathise with Caroline until a lot later on in the film, as we see her emotional stability crack. The satisfactory gaze that we catch in the final still as she looks directly at us is the first time she fully returns our engagement, as if she is asking what our opinion is regarding her final decision.
We start by following Caroline around as she bustles about an airport to get to her final destination, which we later find out is because of her work as a busy and successful architect. The use of the camera following her around (rather like the camera work in the beginning of The Graduate) is maintained throughout the film, breaking only when she is around other people’s company. Instantly we are propelled into her world, and gain a sense of her character as an independent, career-driven woman (multilingual) with an air of mystery about her. The recurring theme of the surrounding hotel as neutral ground, un-phased by the meeting that undoubtedly phased them is a profound one; it suggests the transient nature of life or, in this case, two individuals as small fish in a big pond. If anything it is a sobering reminder that people and their lives are not defined by their jobs, lifestyle or aesthetic – in essence, don’t judge a book by its cover.
The ending mimics the beginning stages of the film; except everything has changed for her, and for him. Instead of typically rooting for the two central characters to be together forever, we are left appreciating that life – real life – is not like that. Undeniably, viewers can recognize themselves and people they are surrounded by in just two profound characters. People come and go into our lives, have their impact be it small or big, and leave again. If anything, this modern day romance proves that life moves on, people change, the hotel room is re-set and there are fresh chocolates on the pillows. Overall, an interesting watch.
Recommended Viewing on FilmDoo:
(UK & Ireland only)