When films sing poetry through screenplay, camera, setting, and characterisation, an enchanting death of your sleep takes place. Such bliss I encountered in my recent film-voyage with the Golden Globes winning Nocturnal Animals
, directed by Tom Ford. The film is finely versed and framed in terms of visual-aesthetics.
Despite having an aspiring career, you are haunted, constantly, by something that you haven’t figured out yet. You are jumbling inside your mind and don’t really know what’s happening. Perhaps any past incident is still present in your mind. Susan (played by Amy Adams) in Nocturnal Animals
goes through a similar situation, and faces a dumbfounding revenge “written” for her.
sets sail with a unique way of beginning that tells the tale -- an art exhibition in Susan's art gallery where “disfigured” aged, nude women are performing in slow motion. This exhibition, self-reflexively, hints at the upcoming brutality, the capitalistic-chaos in the thoughts of artist cum character, and a beautiful revenge love-art-tale.
Based on a novel titled Tony and Susan
by Austin Wright, the film Nocturnal Animals
speaks of the affair between an artist Susan (Amy Adams), and a writer Tony Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) with a mesmerising screenplay. The screenplay cast a magical spell because of the style of novel-reading. Susan reads a novel's manuscript, sent by her ex-husband Tony Edward, and there the brutality begins.
As the novel proceeds, Susan reads, and Edward bleeds, and Susan shivers, in terror, in guilt, which she could read when they were in relationship. The film adds to the story in the novel, making it a smooth mishmash of the past and the present. Susan, at present, runs a Los Angeles art gallery, married to a wealthy husband Hutton (Armie Hammer) who cheats on her. Susan gradually understands the irony of art and power (to be specific: money) for which she left Edward. After many years of their divorce, Edward sends Susan the manuscript of his first novel, dedicated to her. From this point, the film blooms like a thriller love-tale!
Earlier, when Susan and Edward were married, Susan aborted their child, and couldn’t take the struggling life of Edward because Susan was born and brought up within a bourgeois family environment. She exactly resembles her elite mother, though she disagrees and asserts that she is the opposite, but Edward assures that she is not, eventually Susan proves to be so
The novel that Susan reads tells a tragic-tale of three characters where Edward is playing the role of the father; the other two are: wife and a daughter. The novel opens with Edward, his wife Laura (Isla Fisher), and their teenage daughter India (Ellie Bamber), driving in the pitch-black West Texas. Suddenly, in the middle of the night on a lone highway, their journey is disrupted by a gang of men, and the nightmare begins. The violence that ensues shakes Susan, terrifies not only her, but also the viewers. Handy shots, speedy jerking movements, and the background score (music) perfectly keep pace with the mood of the terrifying night sequence.
Susan shuts off the book, stops reading, and takes medicine; she instantly calls her daughter who is framed in that particular one shot (sleeping in the room with her boyfriend) as equally as Edward’s wife and daughter (in the novel), Laura and India, were screened, after the horrifying killing-rape incident.
Despite living in a palatial modernist mausoleum, torrent of pain is going through Susan. Earlier, when Susan and Edward were married, Susan aborted their child, and couldn’t take the struggling life of Edward because Susan was born and brought up within a bourgeois family environment. She exactly resembles her elite mother, though she disagrees and asserts that she is the opposite, but Edward assures that she is not, eventually Susan proves to be so.
The novel that Susan reads, reminds us that she is dead long ago, and this gifted manuscript only shocks her back to life. Susan ends her reading, and couldn’t stop emailing Edward to meet up. Edward mailed back, they locked a schedule and a location.
Susan is eagerly waiting to meet Edward, to know how he is now, re-married or not, and so on. The shock of the novel brings dead-inside-Susan into life, and there she desires to meet “life,” coming out of the presumed “comfy” cocoon provided by her present husband Hutton.
She waits in a restaurant, and drinks wine, and again waits; the waiter clears all bills. All’s gone, except Susan, waiting, in guilt, restless inside. Before this sequence, Tom Ford perfectly hints Edward's motives in a background prop where an art canvas was hung with these words written: REVENGE!
And there ends the vengeance of Edward -- the pain Edward absorbed once from Susan, poured down into pages, suffusing into Susan again after years -- leaving her traumatised, and remorseful.
Ahmed Tahsin Shams is Lecturer, Department of English Language and Literature, Notre Dame University Bangladesh (NDUB), as well as Director, Avant-garde Productions. He can be reached at [email protected]