American independent film is not dead, as witnessed by “Day Night Day Night,” Julia Loktev’s riveting, accomplished narrative debut, which opens today as part of IFC’s First Take program. Funded by Germans (of course), the film, as most of you already know by now, chronicles two days and two nights in the life of a female suicide bomber in New York City. But as I wrote in my Filmmaker Magazine inteview with Loktev: Comparisons to Paradise Now or The War Within may be inevitable, but the film couldn’t be further from such depictions (it’s like saying Saving Private Ryan and Le Petit Soldat are similar because they’re both war movies).
“It’s an action movie in the sense that it’s all about actions, it takes place in the here and now. And I mean, the action can be her washing her underwear, but it is a kind of action; it is about something that unfolds in the moment,” Loktev told me.
Here’s some other highlights from our interview. For the complete article, pick up the Spring issue of Filmmaker.
“I was interested in Bresson’s The Trial of Joan of Arc, which was more like a courtroom drama. And just Joan of Arc has always been such a conflicted figure. But for me it’s always about the space, and this incredible implacable face. I was also interested in beginning at the point of conviction; in the very first shot she says ‘I’ve made up my mind.’ And that’s where you begin, at a point of certainty, and then does she or doesn’t she move away from certainty over the course of the film. Which I guess is where Joan of Arc comes in — the testing of faith, the vacillation.”
“I wanted to make it like two completely different movies, that looked completely different, that felt completely different, that sounded different. I was even thinking of Jean-Luc Godard’s In Praise of Love, where midway through it shifts to a completely different look. I liked the idea of two different movies rolled into one. The first part for me was roughly the preparation. These people are planning something. It’s like pre-production. In the planning stages everything seems simple, everyone knows what they’re doing. It’s like a schematic plan. And so I wanted everything you see and hear to reflect that, so there wasn’t any extra information. It takes place in hermetic interiors, you almost don’t go outside, you don’t know where you are. All the compositions were very simply arranged. Another film I thought of was Kurosawa’s High and Low, which has a kind of hermetic inside. In fact, we did the sound in mono, and all you heard was really the impact she makes in the world. We didn’t add any extra atmospherics, it’s just focused on this girl alone and everything is clear.