Un rêve plus long que la nuit (A Dream Longer Than the Night) is French-American artist Niki de Saint Phalle’s fairytale trip through the female erotic psyche. Most known for her brightly-coloured monumental sculptures and her series of Tirs assemblage paintings—in which she would shoot at the artwork with a gun—Saint Phalle was also an accomplished filmmaker. Her two feature films form a curious diptych externalising hidden and complex impulses of female sexuality. She upheld her convictions by not only writing and directing, but importantly also playing in front of the camera as well.

Originally titled Camelia and the Dragon, Un rêve begins with an introduction to the young Camelia, who throughout the story will search for the meaning of life, death and love. We follow Camelia through a fairytale dreamland in which she meets a dragon, a beautiful bird-man and a black witch who grants her wish to become a grown-up. Princess Camelia is now forced to reckon with the increasingly strange and terrifying World of the Grown-Ups. She discovers several unexpected settings: an absurd metal factory where objects are made only to be destroyed; a perverse Boarding School for Young Ladies; and on a battlefield in an all-out war, replete with phallus cannons and fired by a lecherous general.

The film is a stew of ideas and images bubbling up from Saint Phalle’s creative well. She was aided by many friends, patrons and fellow artists—including her companion Jean Tinguely, whose enormous walk-in statue La Tête serves as a central setting of the film. For all its strangeness, sensuality and wonder, Saint Phalle’s film has been little seen since the 1970s. The magical film provides deeper evidence that fairytale was a central theme across the artist’s work. —Herb Shellenberger

Niki de Saint Phalle

Niki de Saint Phalle (1930–2012) was a French-American sculptor, painter and filmmaker, widely regarded as one of the most significant women artists of the 20th century. Beginning as a self-taught artist, Saint Phalle's progression was hastened along by her encounters with the work of Antonio Gaudí, Willem de Kooning and Marcel Duchamp, elements of which would merge in creating her imaginative and monumental sculptures, her wildly sensual mode of figuration and playful streak of conceptualism.
Niki de Saint Phalle made two feature films. Daddy, released in 1973 and co-directed with Peter Whitehead, is a surreal, gothic horror film about a deeply-troubled father-daughter relationship. The sadomasochistic film sees the protagonist (played by Saint Phalle) enacting violent rituals onto her father towards the end of his life, their parent-child roles reversed as he is near death. Un rêve plus long que la nuit is a fairytale pastiche, featuring Saint Phalle's characteristic sexual aesthetic played out across scenes of fantasy.


Un rêve plus long que la nuit (1976), Daddy (with Peter Whitehead, 1973)