“They say every investigator has a crime that haunts him. No one knows why.”Yohan Vivès
An engrossing French police thriller, The Night of the 12th serves as an interesting companion piece to The Accusation, focusing on how a police investigation seeks to determine events from a vacuum rather than The Accusation’s nebulously competing truths of those involved. The crime, a murder of a young woman, occurs suddenly and before making any attempt to connect us with the victim. Instead, alongside the officers interrogating those who knew her, we gradually gather these recollections to form a picture. We experience the entire investigation primarily from the freshly promoted captain Yohan Vivès, whom we see frequent the velodrome at night as if trying to outrun his own mind in a futile circle. There are occasional visual flourishes to draw us into his mindset, like a sequence in which he imagines himself as each of the suspects. The script seems to acknowledge that exclusively presenting the police perspective risks devolving into “copaganda”, though it combats this only in passing dialogue as a new hire comments that the criminal investigation team is “less racist than most cops”. For the most part it presents them as hard working, underpaid and stressed, mostly men isolated by their masculinity (after one unloads emotionally, the only response is “see you tomorrow”). With the exception of Vivès they are just sketches, though some tropes are bucked like a seasoned officer being the violent hothead, kept in check by his younger replacement. Dominik Moll uses the genre template to explore contemporary social issues in France, particularly in relation to gender and relationships — Vivès comments “something’s amiss between men and women”, noting that every man in the victim’s life became a suspect. Primarily, however, this is a study in the toll that a single case can have when there is no certainty that the truth will eventually emerge.