The book within a movie trope has been replicated in cinema many times. Think The Princess Bride, Adaptation and even Fight Club to some extent. Somehow, in Nocturnal Animals, it doesn’t seem like a tired trope; it has a purpose. Throughout the suspenseful journey, the audience is entranced by flashbacks, the fictitious world that Tony has created, and the real world where we see Susan’s new marriage crumbling.
This film is reminiscent of David Lynch’s work, as you don’t know what is fiction and what is real life as both worlds start to interweave. Its meta, bold and brash overtones begin from the very first shot, as with the rest of the film, you don’t know how to react.
Susan’s world is dependent on image. Her appearance is carefully calculated to emulate the realistic person she is, she deems herself uncreative, a sensible creature. In the flashbacks we see that on the other hand, Tony is a sensitive and creative man, unsure he’ll ever write a complete novel. Jake Gyllenhaal also plays the main protagonist of Tony’s novel, Edward, who is a mysterious, lonely figure following the clues to solve his personal tragedy.
Apart from his directorial debut A Single Man, Tom Ford is also a fashion designer and this is evident as the mis-en-scene leaves stunning Easter eggs, it relies on pieces of art to tell another hidden story. The camera favours the cast’s performances, lingering on Gyllenhaal’s and Adams' face at precisely the right moment.
This is a thriller; pieces of dialogue are repeated by different characters and certain shots are replayed to continue the deja-vu effect that will keep audiences unnerved. The shots are timed with the beats of songs for maximum, emotional effect. The sound design of this film is incredible; this is evident of the soundtrack by Abel Korzeniowski that is dark and sumptuous; at some moments, it almost mirrors that of a horror film.
Nocturnal Animals is a tense but subtle affair. Not everything is said to the audience, we’re left to read between the lines. Overall, the film creates a dynamic shift in the direction of cinema. It is smart and leads us on, then abandons us trying to solve the real tragedy from the clues that Ford is willing to give us.
Book your ticket to Nocuturnal Animals here.