Bert Scholiers / Belgium / 72 mins / 2017
As part of Edinburgh International Film Festival
Charlie and Hannah’s Grand Night Out (original title: Charlie en Hannah gaan uit) is a title that seems to give the game away. Two friends named Charlie (Evelien Bosmans) and Hannah (Daphne Wellens) go, as you might expect, on a night out. Except this isn’t any ordinary night out: although they do get kebabs (sorry for the spoiler), get black-out drunk and make questionable sexual decisions (not necessarily in that order), this film is anything but predictable.
With the help of some “magic candy”, the two women have adventures that span from battling the Anti-Christ in his creepy mansion to tackling a manic ex-boyfriend from the depths of a black hole. If this sounds totally nuts, that’s because it is.
It’s bizarre, beautiful and not to be taken too seriously. The film is also woven with references to film and literature. Most notably, characters from Jane Austen and F. Scott Fitzgerald populate an ethereal brothel, and Charlie narrowly escapes from a villain who resembles a cross between Frankenstein and The Collector.
Whimsy seems to be the main objective of the film. Playful scenes featuring planets, a flying polar bear and talking breasts work in parallel with eclectic filming techniques. The decision to forego colour in favour of black and white, as well as the switching between aspect ratios creates a self-conscious art-house vibe.
Although this may sound pretentious the relative normality of the story-line, in spite of its visual quirks, brings the film down to earth. What is surprisingly striking about it is the sadness that pervades the hi-jinks. While the girls merrily drink, take drugs and laugh about one-night stands, there is a sense of desperation in the fun; desperation for connections, for affection and for love. So even though this film is about letting go with your friends, it is also about loneliness.
A regular feature of most nights out is often disappointment. The reality is occasionally a huge come down from the expectation. However, in Charlie and Hannah’s Grand Night Out, it’s the “reality” that’s out of this world and the expectation that is banal.