On the night of October 12, 2016, in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne (Savoie), a 21-year-old young woman, Clara, was murdered, burned alive while returning from an evening with friends. A Grenoble judicial police brigade is dispatched to the scene to carry out the investigation, which we know from the outset will not be resolved. An intertitle revealed this to us from the start of the film, warning us that the attention should be focused elsewhere.

In this Night of the 12th, it will be the daily work carried out by the police officers – the group leader Yohan (Bastien Bouillon), fussy and taciturn, and his old teammate Marceau (Bouli Lanners) – on the case which will guide us. A meticulous and obsessive work from which the film drives its subject. Which concerns men, and more precisely their relationship with women, the place they grant them, the violence they are capable of unleashing against them. These questions haunt the film. They determine its darkness and its seriousness.

The femicide in question here really happened. It appears, among many others, in 18.3, a year at the PJ, by Pauline Guéna (Denoël, 2020). It was this news item that caught the attention of Dominik Moll. It inspired his seventh feature film, whose formal power, the quality of writing, the intelligence of the casting match those of his first films, Harry, a friend who wishes you well (2000) and Lemming (2005) .

Great accuracy

The film highlights the life of a brigade confronted with lack of resources, loneliness, frustration and the haunting idea that the culprit may never be identified. When developing the script, the filmmaker worked with Gilles Marchand, his accomplice since the beginning. Together, they created a solid and highly accurate score. A favor for actors who, even in the smallest roles, find a way to express their singularity. They are numerous. Each one, however, asserts itself and stands out in a flash, contributing to the creation of a tenuous mesh, working towards the construction of a perfectly rectilinear story.

There are the men of the brigade, then Clara’s parents, her best friend Nanie (Pauline Serieys), her ex-boyfriends. When questioned, everyone tells a story, reveals a behavior that some, in light of the murder, will question, others not.

It is said that at the PJ each investigator comes across, one day, a crime that devours him. For Yohan, it is the murder of Clara, the one absent from the film, whose portrait emerges implicitly through the people who knew her.