Dark Night

 

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An American film looking not at violent outrages but at the society in which they happen.

 
Dark Knight
  

The American Tim Sutton teaches film as well as being the writer and director of three movies of which this, his latest, is the first to reach us. He is, it appears, an admirer of the work of Gus Van Sant and, just as the latter's 2003 film Elephant drew on the Columbine school massacre, Dark Night reflects the comparable tragedy that occurred in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado in 2012. When a film derives from source material of this kind, it can easily arouse expectation of a shocker fully deserving of dismissal as a piece of tasteless exploitation. However, as confirmed by the censor's certificate (a modest 12A), Dark Night is nothing like that. Instead it's a wholly idiosyncratic film that will disappoint anyone looking for sensationalist entertainment, while also irritating anyone expecting a clear-cut conventional narrative.

 

There is a brief reference early on by way of news on television to the killings in Colorado and that can be taken as a hint regarding this film's concerns which are not otherwise stated. It is certainly as well to know in advance where the film is headed since it follows a group of unconnected characters going about their business during the course of a day which will end when they visit a cinema. By then we have discovered which of them will enter the multiplex ready to kill, but that action will take place not merely off screen but after the film is over. Meanwhile, we have eavesdropped on various lives, the film moving arbitrarily between its characters often with a limited amount of dialogue. One can't be surprised that many viewers have found this meaningless and, indeed, boring.

 

However, if Sutton has given himself a tough task in holding the interest of the audience, film buffs will readily be impressed by the superb colour photography by Hélène Louvart and by Sutton's self-evident interest in cinema technique (there are, for example, some striking panning shots and two or three choice aerial views). For me this certainly kept boredom at bay, but, more than that, if you go with it, Dark Night gradually reveals itself as a portrait of American society as a powder keg. The emphasis is more on the young than on the elderly, but the lives shown indicate a lack of any real satisfaction: at best people can dream, but with little hope of those dreams becoming reality, while for some the dream will turn into a nightmare that carries them beyond frustration into violence. Arguably too demanding, Dark Night is nevertheless far more meaningful than Elephant was. It shows a way of life both shallow and troubled that makes violent rampages cease to be inexplicable. Instead we see such actions as a natural consequence, even though it may be impossible to know which individuals will be the ones driven to act them out.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Robert Jumper, Anna Rose Hopkins, Rosie Rodriguez, Karina Macias, Aaron Purvis, Marilyn Purvis, Clara Hampton, Andres Vega, Eddie Cacciola, Bryce Hampton.

 

Dir Tim Sutton, Pro Alexandra Byer, Screenplay Tim Sutton, Ph Hélène Louvart, Pro Des Bart Mangrum, Ed Jeanne Applegate, Music Maica Armata, Costumes Jami Villers.

 

Big Jack productions/Van Riper Archives/Calais Entertainment-Thunderbird Releasing.
85 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 18 August 2017. Cert. 12A.