Stylish and Harrowing; A True Story Told With Care
Based on a true story, A Twelve Year Night is a beautifully constructed, harrowing tale about three prisoners forced into solitary confinement for 12 years. With slick camera work, shocking torture scenes and a methodically paced plot, this foreign drama makes for quite the absorbing watch. With a run time of a little over 2 hours, there’s a balanced focus between the 3 prisoners too and all of this builds toward an emotional wave of relief during the film’s final scenes.
The story begins right at the heart of the conflict. As Uruguay slips into a dictatorship, the previous democratic government is disbanded with José Mujica, Mauricio Rosencof and Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro captured and thrown into solitary confinement for fighting against the new world order. Devoid of light, basic rations and social interaction, the three men are forced to endure 12 years of hell at the hands of the Uruguayan government. Never giving in to their resolve, the three men find ways to communicate through knocking and hold firm in their resolve despite overwhelming odds. All of this builds toward the final 30 minutes or so where the prisoners find their luck changing and with it, newfound hope that their ordeal may soon be coming to an end.
Say what you will about the plot itself, technically at least A Twelve Year Night is really quite impressive. Establishing shots do well to show the passing of time as the days tick by. Sweeping shots across the ground during the brief exterior scenes really sell the gravitas of the prisoners experiencing the outside world again. All of this coming after a stylish opening rotating shot, setting the tone and mood for what’s to come. A clever use of lighting helps too, with the dark, bleak scenes slowly replaced with more bright light as the film draws to a close, further emphasizing that “light at the end of the tunnel” feel.
The acting in the film is really good too, with the three prisoners doing an excellent job showing their desperation and defiance in the face of the authorities. It really helps sell the entire film and seeing these three men forced to endure horrific punishments and then brave face to their families is something that’s captured perfectly here and helps A Twelve Year Night stand out from other films in this category.
A Twelve Year Night is quite simply a really well constructed and endearing film. The subject matter is handled with care and respect, playing on the human side of this horrific ordeal. While some may lament the methodical pace and long scenes where there isn’t much plot development, this historical drama draws on the mood and feel of the time brilliantly. Accompanied by solid acting and impressive cinematography, A Twelve Year Night is a very good film and absolutely worth a watch.