Very early on, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that a young woman has been murdered and the entire police force is male. These are professional men who do their job and do it very well, but at a certain level, there is a disconnect. The men slip into moments of judging Clara for her risky behavior. They don’t call her a “slut” or anything, but the implication is clear. Yohan tries to course-correct these conversations, but he doesn’t have the language to express the imbalance at work. Maybe somewhere, he, too, is judging Clara; maybe he wishes she was a “perfect victim.” It is up to Stéphanie (Pauline Serieys), Clara’s heartbroken best friend, to finally tell Yohan about the blind spots at work, blind spots he didn’t even know he had.
This is where “The Night of the 12th” works. When a female judge asks for the case to be re-opened three years later and calls Yohan in to discuss, he says, confusedly, “Something is amiss between men and women.” Such a simple word but so eloquent. He knows what’s wrong. He can see it in front of him! He just isn’t sure how it might apply. The screenplay is excellent (the film won six Césars earlier this year, including Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Film). When the script is “on the nose,” as it is in the excellent scene between Stéphanie and Yohan, it can afford to be.
“The Night of the 12th” contains a pretty hefty critique of systemic issues, not just issues with systems but with people and how they think. The film’s critique is devastating since so little of it makes it into the language. The characters don’t have the language to address what is really going on, and if you don’t have the language, then you don’t have the thoughts and feelings either. In 1984, George Orwell laid out this concept for all time: “Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller.”