Nocturama (2016) dir by Bertrand Bonello

A group of teenagers plan a terrorist attack in Paris. They don’t seem to have a clear motive apart from the audience assumption that any teenager would potentially rebel against society. A few members look Arab, but others are white, eliminating a racial motive in the attack. So…what gives?

I’m going to take a leap here and say that this lack of detail and information about the group’s motivation for the attack is actually the strength of the story. It allows the audience to fill in the blanks with our expectations and make deductions on the given visual cues. One scene shows one of the attackers donning a silk robe, like a modern-day Scarface. The second part of the film takes place in a shopping mall where suddenly the characters are revealed as consumerist drones straight out of a contemporary rap music video. This weird doubling works as commentary on media consumption: terrorist actions as reported by the media are part of the same heap of consumerist entertainment as pop music.

The critique is aimed at the current conflation of politics and entertainment. In the 90’s, the main preoccupation of philosophers and intellectuals was how systems of representation created spurious realities. But who could have predicted that news media would become indistinguishable from popular cinematic narrative? This movie itself is an example of this narrative reduction. It’s a conflation of 3 known movies: Van Sant’s Elephant, any cheap heist film, and Romero’s Dawn of The Dead.

I’ll take it as an artistic statement, reflecting the emptiness and uselessness of our own narrative shorthands. Cinema as a corrupted artform, too loaded for clarity or humanist statements. I don’t trust anybody anymore who asks me to sit down, listen and watch something for more than 15 minutes. Watching a film has become as confusing and damaging as enabling systems of oppression to secure our own survival.

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Categories: Notes

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