Screened to rapturous applause earlier this year during the IFC’s Lesbian and Gay Film Festival, Patricia Rozema’s beguiling new film borrows its title from a memorable speech delivered at the end of Ingmar Bergman’s magisterial Fanny and Alexander: ‘The world is a den of thieves and night is falling . . . so let us be happy while we are happy.’
When Night Is Falling is by far the most assured and positive of Rozema’s three features to date. The sometimes embarrassing flights of fancy on display in I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing and the mishmash of styles that was The White Room have been replaced here by a relatively straightforward story of self-discovery. The result is a much more coherent and mature portrayal of female desire.
Rozema’s heroine, Camille (Pascal Bussiers), is an academic at a Christian college in Toronto. She’s about to marry a male colleague when an unexpected erotic encounter with a colourful circus performer, Petra (Rachel Crawford), prompts confusion and inner conflict. Faced with a choice between the woman she desires and the man she has loved, between her emerging self and the expectations of others, Camille attempts to reconcile her love and her faith.
Making clever use of Camille’s role as a professor of mythology who works within a Christian context, Rozema’s film combines low-key dramatic comedy with playful hints of deeper forces at work beneath the surface.