This tense and absorbing thriller from French director Dominik Moll follows two frustrated detectives as they search for the killer who carried out a particularly shocking murder.
The victim was a happy 21-year-old girl, Clara (Lula Cotton Frapier), who was doused with gasoline and set alight as she walked through a quiet suburban street on her way home from a party.
Why did she die? Her best friend, Nanie (Pauline Serieys), has no doubts: Clara was killed, she tells police, because she was a girl.
It turns out that Clara liked rough sex, the rougher the better, and was drawn to all the wrong types of men. As the police track down her friends and lovers it seems she had many liaisons, often simultaneously.
The film opens with a rollicking party at police headquarters where a group of detectives are celebrating the impending retirement of their chief, Marceau (Bouli Lanners) and the appointment of his successor,Yohan (Bastien Bouillon).
This was the night of October 12, 1916 – the night of Clara’s death.
As Marceau and Yohan immerse themselves in the hunt for the killer, they each become deeply affected. Though both are experienced detectives, this is one case that haunts them above all others.
Marceau gets increasingly angry as he confronts a series of unattractive men, all former sexual partners with Clara.
Yohan is just as involved as Marceau but remains cool and clear-headed. He burns off his frustration by pedalling his bicycle hour after hour on the circular track of a velodrome – like a hamster on a treadmill, going round and round without getting anywhere.
Other police in their team react to the pressure with cynical comments and ribald humour.
The Night of the 12th is a semi-fictitious tale inspired by 30 pages out of 500 in Pauline Guena’s deeply engaging account of a year spent with the Criminal Investigation Department of Versailles.
Moll has transposed the setting to the dramatic mountain landscape of the Grenoble region in the French Alps which adds a brooding atmosphere to the mystery.
After three years, with the police no closer to finding Clara’s killer, Marceau has retired and Yohan has tried to put the case behind him, referring it to another unit.
But it comes back to haunt him when a judge (Anouk Grinberg) gives him the go-ahead for a final push to try to solve the crime.
This is a fascinating film, probing the effect of one horrific killing on everyone involved, from the investigators to the friends, family and lovers of the victim.
Moll wrote the script together with Gilles Marchand. The cinematography by Patrick Ghiringhelli is excellent and Olivier Marguerit’s subtle music score enriches the proceedings.
The Night of the 12th (La Nuit du 12) is in French with English subtitled.
It opens on October 13 at Luna Leederville and Luna On SX.
Watch the trailer…