The nocturnal Lawrence Johnston is fascinated by the night. And the award-winning director says he’s not alone.
“Whether it’s the celebratory nature of night, the mystery of the night, our memories of having to go to bed as a kid, or meeting people who may become our life partners, most people have an attraction to the night,” he says.
Johnston is in town to promote Night, his cinematic feature film about Australia after dark. Set to a symphonic score from composer Cezary Skubisewski, the film combines imagery of some of Australia’s, and particularly Sydney’s, most well-known landmarks with the stories of everyday Australians’ experiences at night.
Distributed in Australia by Dendy Films, Night was officially selected for the Toronto, Melbourne, and Brisbane international film festivals, and its Sydney premiere at the Open Air Cinema in January was sold out.
From his work as a night photographer in his early years to the making of his gay graduation film Night Out and his later Arthur Stace documentary Eternity, Johnston says he realised that we all have a spiritual element to our lives.
“I am not a religious person myself, but through making these films I have realised that people want to belong to something that is good in the world, they want to be connected to humanity and have a sense of belonging,” he said.
“At the end of every day of our lives, we have to face the night. We have to leave our place of work. We have to end something. There is this wonderful thing that happens when darkness falls and permeates our lives, which affects the way we look at the world.”
Conscious of including positive images of gay people in his films, Johnston ensured that a lot of the film’s “talking heads” were well known to the gay and lesbian community.
“We actually tried to film at Mardi Gras but we weren’t allowed to take cameras in, which was understandable,” he said.
“Paul Capsis had a fantastic observation about seeing Shirley Bassey for the first time. It was in our edit for a long time, and I really wanted it in the film, but it didn’t make it.”
Night is in cinemas from 7 February.