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Exclusive: Get out the Billy Clubs, & Mace, It’s Sarah Waters “The Night Watch” produced by the BBC

Later that afternoon, face sunburnt, seating in the DGA 1 theater (the big, super fancy one that’s cold as most people’s freezers), and feeling so exhausted I could barely understand the story, much less the thick, London accents. But I’ll review it anyway!

The BBC is known for its gorgeous period pieces, and The Night Watch is up to par. Slated for broadcast on tuesday, the BBC had turned down 58 Festival requests, OUTFest 2011 being one of two exceptions (the BBC wanted to secure a “transmission” date before giving TNW wider release).

Immediate problem: I was expecting the 19th century, and got WWII. This was not the filmmaker’s fault. I jsut assume all period lesbian dramas feature mi ladys and maids. Nonetheless, it was more than a little disconcerting: expecting crinoline, and corsetts and getting shoulder pads, pumps, and bomb sirens. What really caught me off guard was the flashback structure. I struggled to stay awake and understand 1947; my head kind of imploded when the film rewound (a la Lola, Lola Run, or The Matrix ie., really fast) back to 1944.

Three notable moments in TNW: At a party during the 1944 sequence, a group of woman imagine what life would be like after the war. One plans to live openly as a lesbian, “Because everything will be different.” Another shakes
her head and says,”They’re only letting us have our freedom because they need us.”

The second moment depicted what a women risked were she caught getting a back alley abortion – imprisonment. Given how our country’s doing a slow-mo, incremental back pedaling on a woman’s right to chose, this reality based terror struck a chord in the present day.

The last moment was more jarring than anything, and it was seeing Claire Foy (who I’ve been watching in Little Dorritt, in a whole other century) getting down in the 1940’s not with a gentleman, but another lady.

Random notes: I’ve noticed that people in English films always seem to shake their heads, and say (in a hushed / urgent / distressed voice), “I cannot go back to that house, for reasons you well know!” just before they serve the tea.

During the post-screening Q&A, the director, Richard Laxton (Accused and Hancock and Joan), spoke about the production: It was fourteen degrees below zero for the entire 25 day shoot (with one day where it broke 1 degree!), a freezing temperature that included interior shots. Laxton had some nice things to say about Sarah Waters***, the author, but I had fallen asleep. He was pretty hot though.

*** Just kidding: He had to “audition” for her: “She’s a very nice lady, but she arrives to every meeting with two agents. Maybe because she’s so mild mannered. At the film’s screening, she started crying and said, ‘I was surprised to find it so moving,’ which I thought was odd because it was her idea.”