Tonight offers a heavily stylized play by play of a city’s steep decline into political chaos. Set over one night, this theatrical film features Pascal Gregory as a war hero searching for his estranged wife before he flees the decaying metropolis on the last boat out of town. Told to seek out clues at a seedy cabaret, he makes that locale only his first stop on a foray into depravity. Throughout Tonight, we watch as the city destabilizes and the patrons of this club are tortured one by one by an unchecked military force.
Schroeter stages all of this mayhem in a purposely artificial style. Using mannered performances, heightened lighting effects, frequent blares of music, and recurrent symbolic characters (such as a girl selling flowers), the movie is clearly not aiming for realism. The mood sometimes feels similar to Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (though nowhere near as finely calibrated), with a stronger focus on politics than sex, even if sexual humiliation is employed at times here as a manifestation of political domination. What results is a film that is somewhat Brechtian in its distancing techniques, but nonetheless capable of communicating its message clearly.