Endless Night falls into a recent spate of art cinema that foreground its political engagement at the expense of both aesthetics (usually patchwork, derivative) and narrative (always treated with mistrust). In an interview, Galician filmmaker Eloy Enciso highlights his suspicion of “the occupational habit in cinema of having a univocal and conclusive plot and narrative.” This, despite the fact that he’s made his film under the signs of both Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Straub-Huillet — the former a master filmmaker, whose feel for languor and duration has created a distorted impression of his talent for narrative, and the latter trained classicists, able to bend story conventions precisely because of their facility with them. From Apichatpong, Enciso has taken Tropical Malady’s plunge into tenebrous forest spaces, though he (unintentionally) leaves behind a genuine sense of the unknown, so sundry shots of moonlit Spanish jungle register mainly as perfunctory. From Straub-Huillet, he’s borrowed the recitative delivery of the duo’s performers, though here, he draws not from a single defining text, but multiple fragments. Endless Night is structured as a triptych: the first section draws from writers of the Galician diaspora that followed the Spanish Civil War; the second from memoirs of those who lived in the country during the Franco era; and the third from letters written by prisoners of the state. In theory, this is meant to buttress Enciso’s challenge against “univocal” tendencies — but the result mainly anonymizes those the director is ostensibly giving voice to. With Endless Night, Enciso wanted to “create not as much a thesis about a historical period or a political system as a humanist, anti-violence sentiment.” And in a sense he’s succeeded, making a film of well-meaning political engagement that succeeds only at conveying the intentionality of its aims.
Published as part of Toronto International Film Festival 2019 | Dispatch 7: Wavelengths Program.