“Night and Day” is a film about the nature of human personal love as the experience of loving which in real life is only part of human amorous psychology but an essential one, the spiritual essence of love as people experience it, an essence of love as love’s phenomenal realization. Chantal Akerman takes this sublime emotional undercurrent at work in human love, separates it from other aspects of love, more conscious and more philistine and even manipulative, and represents it in the film as love affairs between the young newcomers to Paris, Julie and Jack, and later on in the film, between Julie, Jack and Joseph. The result is a film-poem, film-elegy, film-panegyric about the purity and spontaneity of human love.

Of course, Akerman is too of a scholarly director to leave us with just a film-praise and film-adoration. While experiencing the film we start to feel the analytical streak in how the director has organized the narrative and images. Critical semantics joins the depiction of Julie, Jack and Joseph’s lives. These two and later three are gentle and innocent inhabitants of Creation. They are together like they are with the whole Paris, like they are with Creation itself. They are neither consumers nor possessors of love, they are participants in love which they feel as something like the amorous aspect of Heidegger’s Being, and in the process of feeling themselves loving and in love they, as if, humanize Creation by transforming it into ontological plenitude which is touched by some kind of a gracious melancholy of their very existence in love and through love.

How and why spiritual mutations happen is one of the mysteries of human psychology. Chantal Akerman makes us see such a mutation in action when one morning Julie, after returning to her and Jack’s place after having spent the night with Joseph and expecting Jack’s return from working night shift, suddenly felt an unconditional desire (which probably was silently ripening in her unconscious for some time) to leave her life, leave Jack and Joseph forever, never to return to them, to leave without looking back, to leave in spite of being… happy. She felt the necessity to run away from her happiness. Even genuine personal love (not to mention the predatory couplings and marriages when symbiosis with marital and family ties functions as a surrogate for love and imprisons the beloveds in gilded castle of conventional “love” as a shining banner of social status), is not enough for an evolving and an intelligent human being.

“Night and Day” is one of the most gracious among the intellectual films. Its tender, intuitive quality and its gently insistent semantic perspective we’ll never forget. This film will always have a p. o. box in our memory which follows Akerman’s film registered the way from amorous mysticism to existential humility (from idolatry of love to becoming a little pebble of life).

In ‘Night and Day” the noumenal and phenomenal aspects of love had become fused in Akerman’s style, only to drastically separate at the end of the film, splitting on love as appropriated (and now refused) form of life, and life as a sublimated form of love.

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Chantal Akerman acting in her own film “Saute ma ville” (1968)

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Chantal Akerman (b. in 1950)

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The three heroes of “Night and Day” – an amorous trio (not threesome) that engulfs itself into a mystical trance swallowing their lives until the heroine found the courage and daring humility to break it.

Posted on Feb 22, 20114 –   Chantal Akerman’s “Night and Day/Nuit et jour” (1991) – The Gentle and Innocent Zombies of Creation by Acting-Out Politics