A Twelve-Year Night (La noche de 12 anos)

The level of a society’s degree of civilization is measured by the contents of its prisons.

(2018) True Life Drama (Netflix) Antonio de la Torre, Chinese Darin, Alfonso Tort, Cesar Troncoso Soledad Villamil, Silvia Pérez Cruz, César Bordón, Mirella Pascual, Nidia Telles, Eduardo Recabarren, Sofia Gravina, Bianca Gravina, Ana Baltar Peretz, Ilay Kurelovic, Lisandro Fiks, Kornel Dornan, Gustavo Saffores, Juan José Caiella, Luciano Ciaglia, Luis Cao, Luis Mottola, Soledad Gilmet. Directed by Álvaro Brechner

 

The human spirit can withstand just about anything, so long as there is hope. The human spirit is also capable of cruelty that can be staggering in its depths, but even this can be endured – with hope.

In 1972, Uruguay was in the process of losing its democracy to a military junta. A left-wing group known as the Tupamaros were mounting increasingly violent protests against the government. The military chose to eradicate them in brutal fashion, capturing some, killing many.

Three of those captured (there were a total of nine involved but for the purposes of this film they are only concentrating on three) – Jose “Pepe” Mujica (de la Torre), Mauricio Rosencof (Darin) and Eleuterio Fernández Huldobro (Tort) – are put into solitary confinement, not allowed to speak to each other or to their guards. They are occasionally subjected to torture and are often moved around, being used as pawns in a political game. They would endure this situation for twelve years, denied even basic human interaction and often, sunlight. And to think we Americans are about ready to mount an armed revolt after only two months – at home.

This intense film has a difficult task set to it; making an interesting film about men confined to small cells with nothing to do. And damned if Brechner doesn’t do just that. We get a sense of the deprivations that the men lived under and the strength of character it took for them to emerge on the other side of their ordeal with all their marbles intact.

The movie kind of plunges us into the ordeal, starting with the prisoners being carted off to prison without so much as a trial. We don’t really get any sense of who these men were before they ere captured or of their personalities. We know that Mujica had a strong relationship with his mama (Cruz), that Rosencof was an outstanding writer (he became one of Uruguay’s leading poets and playwrights after his release which he remains to this day) and that Huldobro had a love for soccer. It isn’t until near the end of the two-hour film that we really have any sort of handle on these men and their personalities, so be prepared to exhibit a little patience when viewing this.

The movie’s conclusion is powerful and moving; I found myself hard-pressed to stem the flow of tears. It is doubly remarkable to consider that Mujica would go on to become President of Uruguay from 2010-2015. It is an inspiring story and one that is worth the trouble to seek out and take in.

REASONS TO SEE: Very much reminiscent of a Costa-Gavras political thriller. Extremely moving in places. Some of the scenes are remarkably intense.
REASONS TO AVOID: There really isn’t a lot of context as to the various lead characters, especially early on.
FAMILY VALUES: There is both violence and profanity as well as some brief nudity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This was Uruguay’s official submission for the 2019 Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film award.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Netflix
CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/25/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 80% positive reviews, Metacritic: No score yet
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Papillon
FINAL RATING: 8/10
NEXT:
Mnemophrenia

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