Going by the title, Before Tonight is Over sounds like a promise – a statement of goals, said aloud so no one can chicken out – and perhaps a few of the characters in Peter Solan’s movie did come to the nightclub with an agenda, but that’s not why the film rings true. It rings true because, regardless of those plans, the night has a will of its own.
Miloš (Marián Labuda), for example, wants his friend, Kventinka (Stano Danciak), to help him pick-up girls, but ends up with an unreliable wingman. Kventinka thinks he’s going to hit it off with Olga (Jana Gýrová), but spends most of the night with her good pal, Mira (Jitka Zelenohorská).
There’s is not a magical romance, though for a moment you can get swept up in the possibility of it. Something about the bar trick Kventinka shows her and the way they bounce back from not being each other’s first choices seems hopeful, but that’s what makes Before Tonight is Over special, because while the film takes place over the course of one night and in a single location, any significance attached to that night comes from it being filmed. Otherwise, it’s a night like any other. Nothing’s embellished for drama’s sake.
While the film teases viewers with the promise of something happening (like when Kventinka frightens Miloš by suggesting someone might die), the truth is nobody knows where the night will take them. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is, and if the conversations are mundane and confusing, that’s because small talk and inebriation are involved.
By letting viewers act as flies on the wall at the nightclub, Before Tonight is Over becomes about observing human nature. From the guy who keeps trying to buy everyone a drink, to the guy who keeps trying to get someone to ooh and ahh over a light fixture he installed, the nightclub attracts a wide array of people and because most of them stay until closing there’s plenty of time to get to know them better. There’s also live music and some professional dance acts that deserve all the screen time they get.
Second Run’s release comes with a fair share of bonus features. The longest is a conversation between film historian, Martin Kaňuch, and director, Rastislav Steranka, that has them sitting at a bar to discuss Solan. There’s also a booklet essay by Peter Hames, where he writes about the role alcohol plays in the movie, addresses the cast, and makes an intriguing observation about “the film as performance.” High Tatras (1966) is a short film/tourist video that helps shine some light on where the nightclub is supposed to be set and Operation BL (1959) is a short film/commercial for Barbus shaving cream.
A lot of films revel in the unusual, but unremarkable nights deserve their day, too. Before Tonight Is Over is available on all-region Blu-Ray starting June 14th from Second Run.