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Aperson can be greedy about a whole lot of things, but Rebecca (excellently played by Juliette Binoche) in “1,000 Times Good Night” is greedy about work.

She is one of the world’s top five war photographers, and because she’s a woman (and therefore deemed trustworthy), she often gains access to places and situations closed to her male counterparts. Rebecca’s hunger to capture the next photo that will redefine the image of modern warfare is insatiable. To this end, she will do anything and go to the far reaches of the globe, putting her life on the line in ways that her family back home in Norway would never want to imagine.

“1,000 Times Good Night” throws a number of crucial questions at us, the first of which is: Should war and violence be a photo opportunity? The opening scene is gripping and shows Rebecca preparing to shoot a suicide bombing in Afghanistan. She has been promised access to the event at close proximity — to go in just before detonation and then to get out — but her passion to capture the moment leads to disaster. This time, her brush with death is way too close.

1,000 Times Good Night (Oyasuminasai wo Iitakute)
Rating
Director Erik Poppe
Run Time 117 minutes
Language Norwegian, English (subtitled in Japanese)
Opens Dec. 13

The other question is whether this experience is different for Rebecca because she’s a wife and mother. Back in Norway, her husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is devastated to hear of Rebecca’s narrow escape. He’s had to endure her constant absences, taking care of their two daughters while she hops from one war zone to another. But now he reveals his anger and insists Rebecca stay home, get to know her kids and take jobs that are safe and manageable.

Director Erik Poppe was once a war photographer himself and obviously understands the world he is portraying — he is smack-bang in his element.

It’s interesting that Poppe chose to make his protagonist a woman. With a man, the story would have totally different implications, with the nature and quality of the man’s work as the focal point. Poppe concentrates on Rebecca’s emotions, ever-vulnerable to her family’s needs and priorities. She would love to spend more time with her daughters, but like frontline soldiers who can’t adjust to civilian lives, Rebecca feels alienated and useless back in the safe, sanitary environs of home and local society.

So she goes off again, like an adrenaline junkie in need of a fix, but she’s also driven by an obsessive altruism. She believes her work can change the world, and that a single stunning image can affect the use of weapons and the deployment of violence. The last, most significant question: Shouldn’t a regard for the world be as important as the regard for one’s family?

For a woman, the balancing act is always tricky and fraught with stress, and the chances of coming out of it unscathed are impossibly slim. And yet, Rebecca keeps at it. We need more stories like this, if only to pay tribute to women like her.

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