I have been hoping against hope that the DT administration would turn out to be an unexpectedly decent one. But, of course such a hope was unrealistic from the beginning. People cannot change all of a sudden. After all, a person is always partially what he has been and partially what he wills to become even according to Sartre’s existentialist philosophy. The world has been dark and anxiety-provoking these last few months; even the proverbial symbol of liberty, the Statue of Liberty, went dark on March 7 and 8. So many madmen are in the positions of power. Is there a decent future for humanity?
Recently my husband and I watched Tom Ford’s film “Nocturnal Animals” at home. (Since we had acquired a 3-month-old puppy a few weeks ago we, try to spend more time at home. Life has been a little chaotic these days not only in society at large but also in my own private life after we included a puppy in our family. Having a young puppy is a little like having a baby: a lot of time and attention is needed to take care of a puppy.)
To change the subject back to Tom Ford’s film, I would say the film was gripping from the very beginning to the end in an unsettling manner.
The credit title back of slow-motion shots of naked, dancing, morbidly obese women, which probably represents the trend of the contemporary art world – that is cruelty and trashiness perversely manipulated into “art” forms – were grotesque as well as fascinating. Obviously, the dancing show is part of a performance art sponsored by an upscale art gallery, whose owner/ manager is the main character of this film, Susan. The sterile and stark art gallery structure as well as her immaculate residence emphasizes her character as icy and lacking human warmth. She is elegant and sophisticated but not sympathetic even when her current handsome and sophisticated husband is revealed to be engaged in infidelity. She seems to know that their marriage is collapsing. But, neither she nor her husband seems to care to rectify it. Then she receives a package from her ex-husband Tony. It contains a novel written by Tony, who was an aspiring novelist when Susan and Tony were married.
The film’s title “Nocturnal Animals” refers to the title of a disturbing horror fiction written by Tony. The manuscript is dedicated to Susan. Intrigued, Susan starts reading the novel, which is subsequently played out as a live-action movie in the film. The double exposure of the frame narrative of the film, Susan’s own life, and the film within the film underscores the close connection between these apparently disparate narratives. The gut-wrenching horror fiction is actually a metaphor for a more refined story of the upper or upper-middle class people’s emotional cruelty.
Tony’s novel “Nocturnal Animals” begins with an upper-middle class family of three, the father/ husband, the mother/ wife, and their daughter, travelling in their Mercedes at night on a highway in West Texas. As if in a nightmare, they are driving in the pitch-black darkness with no other living creatures in sight. Suddenly two other cars of unknown origin materialize. And the decent middle-class family’s car becomes the target of violent attacks by a pack of men in one of the cars. The family is terrorized by the sadistic ruffians for an extended time, but finally they get forced to derail from the paved highway. This sequence of violence by means of erratic driving is terrifying partially because the weapon of choice is a quotidian object, a passenger car, and partially because it reminds some of us of the sequence of the birth of our current political situation. (I wonder how many people feel that US was violently attacked and derailed by a bunch of punks.)
Susan’s first husband Tony once called Susan “nocturnal animal” – though she is, on the surface, nothing like the low life creatures that attacked the decent fictional family. But, the trajectory of the frame narrative reveals that Susan’s emotional core is similar to the fictional sadistic human-shaped animals that sadistically killed the family in the novel “Nocturnal Animals.” The enigmatic ending suggests that Susan also experiences the emotional death that Tony actually experienced when Susan left him for a more moneyed bourgeois life.