Rich Pickings on Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Chinese director Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night is a masterpiece in magic realism. It benefits from a sensational performance by Huang Jue as loner outsider Luo Hangun. Bi creates a dreamscape and we are never quite sure what is simply poetic license or an action in the real world.
The narrative quest sees Luo in search of lost friends but he finds others on the way, some helpers, some barriers. Bi prefers to infer things rather than state them plainly and even the actors switch characters and places shape-shift, adding to the surreal reverie of the piece.
In a very fine performance Tang Wei as Wan Qiwen is stunning if rather masochistic. But dreams and reality are so blurred maybe the pain is unreal too. There is a great amount of symbology which is treated by Bi masterfully. Even the rainstorms are very beautiful though there is much suspension of disbelief such as when rain drops down on a light fitting (water and electrics do not mix do they?!)
The long 3D take in the second half will go down as a huge event in cinema history (it had to be shot seven times). And it is not just for show – it adds to the feeling that we are inhabiting Luo’s unconscious or even a collective unconscious with the other characters. Despite being occasionally bewildering this is a mind-blowing film that compels you to take in the wash of colours and candid camera movements with great joy.
Reviewed by Rich Jevons on 19 March 2020.