Adilkhan Yerzhanov‘s Night God (Nochnoy Bog) is more than a trippy meditation about the life found in the outskirts of Russia. It’s hard to describe because the plot meanders. The film opens with a pair of workers, just having a conversation, and they see the red tails of what I feel are rockets being launched into space than falling debris–much less a comet (the latter appear as smudges in one point in the sky than wander the horizon). One individual asks, “What is the meaning of it all?”
The response is simply in the fact neither have seen anything like that in their life. They don’t even hint of knowing military exercises are going on elsewhere (the most plausible explanation of what they saw). They are more concerned about their own self being since they believe the world is ready to self destruct. Curiously, we don’t know who everyone is. They’re nameless.
The title alone evoked thoughts of supernatural wonder. From a production artist’s point of view, the lighting effects really stood out. It was a show of contrasts. Some colour comes from discarded neon signs–perhaps to hint at the future that’s in store for them ala Blade Runner–and an unsettling thought came from what may emerge from an old stuttering broadcast from a cathode ray tube driven television set.
Because the village is somewhere near the Arctic, the season they are in is when night lasts far longer than necessary. As I recall, we are a daylight species–without enough exposure to light, some people will fall into depression. In this film, they all look sad. They even behave like ghosts. As the tale moves from character to character–a cop, another simply known as the Man in the Hat, and Alisya (the only character identified in the film) sometimes praying to a nameless force.
While there are cultural nuances that I’m not quite catching from this Kazakhstan/Russian-made film, it does not stop me from marvelling at the high production values put into the work. Effort is put into the set design to suggest a neo-gothic noir world. Despair and decay rules here. It’s omnipresent in more ways than one. The hints of technology come through like a warrior from the Amazon witnessing a stealth fighter for the first time.
Yerzhanov’s work is cinematic expressionistic art at its best. He plays with these character’s expectations and even the viewer’s. The spirituality the people of this town have to confront is actually in themselves than that god hidden in the night. Just who that is, we’re not certain. I feel this film is a morality play in the grandest of traditions. I just need to re-watch this work with Cliff Notes to confirm. At least I can assume Shakespeare approves.
3½ Stars out of 5