Helle Nächte [Bright Nights] (2017)

Helle Nächte
Director: Thomas Arslan
Writer: Thomas Arslan
Cast: Georg Friedrich, Tristan Göbel, Marie Leuenberger, Hanna Karlberg
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 22.10.2017

Michael’s (Georg Friedrich) estranged father recently died in Norway. Michael has to go there to take care of things and decides to take his own son Luis (Tristan Göbel) with him. Luis lives with his mother and he and Michael don’t get along all that well, either. For Michael, this trip and the ensuing drive across Norway is supposed to be a chance for the two of them to connect. For Luis, it’s less clear what he wants from his father and this trip.

Helle Nächte doesn’t tell a very new story, but it tells it well. It wasn’t the film I was most emotionally invested in, but I enjoyed it.

Helle Nächte is a slow-moving film with sometimes very long shots where nothing much happens. I guess you’d have to be in the right mood for that tempo to work for you and luckily, it caught me on the right day. But then, of course, I wouldn’t mind watching Georg Friedrich for any amount of time and in any tempo. Plus, they found some really stunning landscapes to shoot in, so that’s also nice to watch.

So, I had less of an issue with the tempo, although that could be a factor in my staying a little distant from the story. The bigger problem for me was that I’ve seen so many films about estranged father and son relationships and I don’t see where Helle Nächte brings anything new to the table there. And while not every film has to do something new, it felt a little tired here.

My emotional distance from the film may also come from the fact that it really sidelines women in the narrative and the few women that are there (because of course we need a couple of women to cause trouble/love) only get to play the usual roles. I like my stories with women that are actually present and are more than projection spaces for the men.

That being said, though, I wasn’t entirely uninvested in the film and for the most part, I absolutely enjoyed it. The relationship between Michael and Luis developed nicely and it was nice to see them work through it.

Summarizing: maybe not the greatest, but definitely good.

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