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Nocturnal Animals

Susan is a successful gallery owner, married to an attractive, rich, cheating husband. One day she receives a manuscript of her ex-husband Tony’s book NOCTURNAL ANIMALS which is dedicated to her. But is Tony’s brutal novel meant to seduce, charm ...

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Successful gallery owner Susan (Amy Adams) lives with her model husband Hutton –perfect body, stinking rich, tailor-made suit – in a swanky brutalist house with panorama windows, designer furniture, and elegant yet insignificant art. The marriage is ending. Susan has just discovered that Hutton has been having an affair on his business trips. She receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal). The novel “Nocturnal Animals” is dedicated to Susan, and as she begins to read it she remembers the story of how they met, their marriage, and their separation. Whether Tony’s novel is supposed to be a threat, a seduction, or something different altogether remains unclear for a long time. Susan falls under the book’s spell and the romantic notion that someone loved her enough to fictionalize these feelings.

The framework of NOCTURNAL ANIMALS is the pretty common revenge fantasy of a man who has been left: one day you will be rich and successful but your life will feel empty and meaningless because you left me and you will miss my deep passion. Ford sets it up as an ironic, icy melodrama in which a woman, who is fully at home in the superficial world, recognizes that she should have followed “her heart.”

The film’s second strand is Tony’s novel, or rather, the vision of the novel that Susan is reading. A middle class family, the parents played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Isla Fisher, who looks eerily similar to Amy Adams, is confronted by four men during a long drive who are clearly marked as “white trash.” Sensitive father Edward can’t protect the family against the men’s provocations nor can he prevent his wife and daughter getting kidnapped, raped, and killed. What follows is an old school rape revenge plot reminiscent of DEATH WISH in which men have to restore the patriarchal order by avenging “their” wives and saving their masculinity.

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS uses the genre templates and clichés in order to exaggerate them to a hilarious degree and interweave them into a mesh that is difficult to solve. The bulk of the film, Susan’s memories of her relationship with Tony and her visions of the novel, are obviously told from Susan’s perspective. But the framework about depressed ice queen Susan, with its many blows to the art industry, is just as imaginary. Tom Ford knows he is playing with trivial pop clichés and he positions them against each other till they reveal their absurdity. That’s clearest to see in the sheriff character, a gun swinging doomed man with a crazy look in his eyes played by Michael Shannon with incredible verve: a completely off the wall version of the law & order type. Ford’s film has misogynist clichés because it belongs to his insane panopticon of creatures of the night which stem from the imagination of US society. I haven’t been as entertained by anything this month.

Tom Dorow (INDIEKINO MAGAZIN)

Translation: Elinor Lewy

Credits
Screenings

Screenings

  • OV Original version
  • OmU Original with German subtitles
  • OmeU Original with English subtitles
English/with English subtitles
All languages

ALLE ANGABEN OHNE GEWÄHR.
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