F.: Georges Asselin, assistito da Gaston Brun, Marc Bujard, Henri Stuckert. Scgf.: Armand Bonamy. Dir.P.: Georges O’Messerly. Ass.R.: Jean Cassagne, Raoul Lagneau. In.: Charles Vanel (il minatore), Sandra Milovanoff (la moglie). P. Films Fernand Weil. 35mm. L.: 1807 m. D.: 65′ a 24 f/s. bn.
Dans la nuit by Charles Vanel is an exceptional film for more than one reason. It was directed by an actor at a time in which the coming and going in front of and behind the camera was less frequent than it is today. It was also filmed during the period when sound film was exploding, thus it is one of the last French silent films. Since the story takes place in Jujurieux en Bugey, near Lyons, thirty-five years after the launch of the Cinematographe, we can say that the history of the French silent film starts with Lumière and ends with Vanel. The coincidence is not just geographical, and the comparison is not undeserved: Dans la nuit is a wonderful film, unjustly forgotten and extraordinarily contemporary. When Arte asked the Institut Lumière to reflect upon the idea of silent film, Thierry Frémaux, Jacques Deray (for whom Vanel had acted in Symphonie pour un massacre) and I immediately thought of Dans la Nuit. […] From the very first shots, the film shows incredible visual inventiveness in the description of the mine, freedom of tone in dealing with both terror and happiness, a richness of intentions, great attention to the imagery, a demanding attitude, rhythm: in short, cinematic poetry. Vanel is a truly modern filmmaker, and Dans la nuit is a film d’auteur. Unfortunately it is practically his only work. In 1930, the talkies began wiping out sound film, and the public did not welcome Dans la nuit. Despite a second attempt, he would never get over the failure. It is hard not to think of the failure of The Night of the Hunter which forced Charles Laughton to give up a promising career as a director.
Right before my eyes was the rugged and pure Pêcheur d’Islande, heroic officer of Feu, adventurous pilot of La Proie du vent, as well as the bad boy of Paname; but that wasn’t enough for me. In the midst of all these different personalities, I was seeking another, well hidden one. That of the creator of a work that flowed from the heart, and differently from what might be expected of an actor with a long career behind him, a work where the business always left room for sincerity. The personality of the actor in these hard, simple and beautiful images which serve a terrible, painful and even brutal story with a strength that has been rarely surpassed in all of French cinema.
Marcel Carné, Cinémagazine, 7, 1930