“Leaving the night”: dreaming of justice

Responder in an emergency call center, Anna picks up the phone and begins to ask regulatory questions to her interlocutor, a little on autopilot. It appears to be a false number. Gradually, however, Anna’s expression changes: under the guise of speaking to her sister, the stranger, Aly we learn, is indeed speaking to Anna in a coded request for assistance. In the process, a man, Dary, is arrested at a roadblock. Her phone still in hand, Aly, sitting in the passenger seat, accuses him of rape. Written and directed by Delphine Girard, Leave the night explores the aftermath of an attack by alternating the points of view of the victim and the aggressor, with an underlying meditation on inadequate legal mechanisms.

“The feature film is the continuation of a short film, which is called A sister and which was inspired by a phone call like the one that opens the film. We hear a woman in a car pretending to call her sister. But in fact, she is asking for help,” explains the young Belgian-Quebec filmmaker, met a few months ago during her visit to the Cinemania festival, where Leave the night won the Marc-André-Lussier Jury Prize as well as the SARTEC prize for best screenplay.

The call in question haunted Delphine Girard, who had the impression of having witnessed “a secret dialogue between two women”, to use her expression.

“There was something special about what is shared while never being made explicit, because it cannot be said. A woman “feels” what another cannot express. It was very powerful. »

In this regard, the character of Anna is of key importance. In fact, in an extraordinary approach, she tries to find Aly’s trace, in order to ensure that she is recovering, that she is well.

“I liked that the institution was failing, but not her. I found that it was relevant, because “doubting” justice responds very moderately to Aly’s needs. Conversely, this woman, this woman who heard Aly, is not in doubt. She perceived the distress, felt it… There is no doubt in Anna’s mind, who wants to be present. I thought it brought a lot of light to the story. »

Date from hell

In the film, we witness Aly’s simultaneous quests for justice and reconstruction, as she tries to move on, while constantly being held back by an outdated legal process.

Moreover, Aly’s initial testimony before a police officer almost resembles an interrogation flirting with blaming the victim (victim blaming).

“It’s very much based on observation, because I went to meet a whole team of police officers in Brussels,” opines the director.

“We talked a lot, and what I noticed is that everyone, in their reality, thinks they are doing well, but falls short. The tragedy comes from the fact that these are often missed meetings between victims and the police force. The commissioner with whom I spoke was very aware that she and her colleagues might not be at all fair in relation to the victims. She told me that it’s a hell of a date anyway, because you’re dealing with someone who needs validation, comfort and to be believed. However, we demand professional neutrality from the police. »

Delphine Girard continues, these conversations only further encouraged her to avoid any Manichaeism in her approach.

“However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s terrible for Aly to go through this. One does not prevent the other. It’s not because it’s not intentional that it’s not terrible,” summarizes the filmmaker.

Dreaming of justice

The same desire to maintain a view that was both nuanced and lucid animated Delphine Girard when designing the character of Dary.

“I observe how he tells himself what he did. With this character, the question I asked myself was: “When you have committed such a crime, what do you say afterwards, to yourself and to your loved ones?” I wanted to understand what was going on in this guy’s head. He was in denial for a long time about what he did. »

When he ceases to be, this gives rise to a moving scene between Dary and his mother, the latter played by a poignant Anne Dorval.

“It’s a discussion I’ve had with quite a few lawyers who have worked with attackers and who told me: ‘Sometimes we have all the evidence in front of us, and the person continues to categorically deny it.’ However, these are their lawyers, who are there to defend them all the same. You know, we talk a lot about traumatic amnesia among victims, and that seems quite logical to me. But I think there may be similar mechanisms in some aggressors. A way to come to terms with the truth. Through fiction, I wanted to lift the veil on this and confront this character. I wanted that at some point, Dary would no longer be able to live with what he did. Let him admit it. But is it enough? Is this the right positioning? Everyone will decide, but at least he is no longer his own accomplice. »

More broadly, Delphine Girard wanted her film to address the question of the speed with which we respond to victims, judicially speaking.

“Do we really want to file a complaint, when we see what the process entails? And when we know how many of these cases are successful? In Europe, it’s not very happy. There are few exits. At the same time, there is no simple answer to these issues, which are complex and multiple. There are as many stories of assault as there are assaults: each one is unique. Knowing all of this, how, as a society, do we decide to respond to these stories, to these experiences? What justice do we want to dream of, as a society? »

The film Leave the night hits the screens on March 8.

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