Directed by Tim Sutton
Dark Night enigmatically unfolds over the course of a lazy summer day, as it traces the events leading up to a mass shooting in a suburban multiplex. Abandoning the narrative confines of the true crime genre, the story is told through fragmented moments from the lives of several characters, whose fates are tragically intertwined. As the sky grows darker, the placid surface of daily life becomes disturbed by a lurking and inevitable horror.
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★★★★ review by Alex Kolpan on Letterboxd
Dark Night has one of the strangest tone's I've ever seen for a movie. The way Tim Sutton plays with narrative structure and atmosphere is equally hypnotic / weirdly relaxing as it is slightly unsettling, which is a pretty hard feat to pull off. I've heard people complain that this movie is rather insensitive, exploitative, and lacking empathy but I don't really see it that way. The audience succumbs to the same sort of isolation and alienation the characters feel, and there's a strange presence of battling intimacy and distance that allows for an emotional and spatial dynamic that intrigued me quite a bit. I remember all the faces in this movie, the souls of the people in Dark Night. I feel similarly to their fleeting and floating lives and I think others do to, though it's probably hard to admit.
This movie isn't just about Aurora (although it was influenced by it(also why is no one mentioning the reference to the Lafayette shooting that happened??)), it's about the state of America and the ever lurking presence of guns within the American landscape. I don't think this movie would really work in another country, simply given the insane statistics of shooting massacres within the last decade in America.
So much alienation can lead to dark places and sadly we live in country where we are more disconnected than ever. Maybe it's just the cinematography but theres a strange ethereal beauty that exists after the completion of this movie, that at least for me, allows me to greater appreciate the life I have and find subtleties in the nuances of life. Life is fragile, and sometimes it's nice to be reminded of that, in order to fully grasp the beauty within the confines of an often inconsequential existence.
★★★★ review by Kurdt on Letterboxd
This really shouldn’t have been marketed as being inspired by the 2012 Aurora shooting, because a) it’s “inspired” by that in the loosest sense, this film could have existed without that specific shooting and b) it sets audiences up to likely expect a certain type of film, and not the typical Tim Sutton film this turns out to be. This is his third feature and I’ve liked them all, and this has a similar hazy aimlessness to it that his previous work was so good at capturing, only this time there’s obviously a much more sinister edge to that aimlessness. I say this film could have existed without the Aurora shooting because it’s not specifically about that, but rather about gun culture in America as a whole. Sutton’s previous films focused on lackadaisical youth or directionless artists, often staring out into a future abyss of uncertainty. Dark Night contains both of those concepts, except this time the hazy suburban vibe is intruded upon by, as the back cover of the DVD describes, “the new American nightmare”. Guns are ubiquitous within this film, but not just as weapons of violence. They exist on coffee tables, and they exist in the hands of angry kids with no outlet. Sutton seeks to highlight how the quotidian and the violent have become interchangeable, how the usual delicate normalcy he presents has instead become pierced by the constant threat of shootings. It’s this aspect that makes Sutton one of the best filmmakers to tackle this subject, as he can imbue his usual methods with an added dose of tension and his typically serene, lazy landscapes now become the calm before the always-approaching storm.
The film follows many characters who we’re not really introduced to. They exist constantly on the periphery of the film in some ways, mostly just hanging out, but we know one of them is the killer. Sutton doesn’t set out his narrative to be some sort of mystery, as it’s clear who the assailant is going to be, but there are multiple characters who could have just as easily taken their misguided anger out in exactly the same way. While the film is certainly a commentary on how readily available and ubiquitous within American culture guns are, it’s also about how shootings like this could easily happen far more frequently than they already do. The film is doom-laden for its entire runtime since we know what’s coming, but I think that’s not specific to this incident. Sutton wants to bring about the idea that now, that feeling of dread that envelops us for the whole runtime of Dark Night, is the feeling beginning to become ubiquitous in America. Knowing that it’s not longer if, it’s when, and until something changes, this sinking feeling of horrific inevitability will continue to define the US.
★★★★ review by Ludvig Gur on Letterboxd
AFI FEST DAY #1
When I asked director Tim Sutton after the screening of this film, if his intention with Dark Night was to play with the audience, he smiled and replied yes. The movie is incredibly intense and painful to watch although almost nothing happens in it.
The story follows several teenagers during a normal day of their lives. The characters are well portrayed throughout, which helps in creating a great atmosphere. Sutton's choice of shooting locations is excellent and doesn't hurt either. Dark Night is a film with realistic characters, conversations, events and finally feelings.
Similarly to Elephant, most people will probably find Dark Night appealing as it is loosely inspired by the massacre that occured in Colorado in 2012 during a The Dark Knight Rises screening. However, if the massacre is all you want to see, you will be disappointed. This film dives deep into the human mind and our needs. It is slow-paced but for a good and artistic reasons.
The cinematography is great, the acting feels real and the script works well. I hope that more people will see this film! It is as shocking as it is beautiful.
★★★½ review by Jerome1994 on Letterboxd
I'm going to say this right now, the movie is definitely not for everyone, it's very slow moving and actually pretty depressing. The movie for the most part succeeded of what I wanted it to be, but it does fall towards the ending. But overall it's really not bad at all, but definitely keep in mind what you are getting into before viewing.
★★★★ review by Jacob Zembower on Letterboxd
Though similar to Elephant in form and tone, Tim Sutton's Dark Night is entirely it's own vision (and not quite the masterpiece that Elephant was).
As cinema, this is a hypnotic and haunting experience. Appropriately raising questions and speculation but never hinting at any answers or closure. The truth is we'll never truly have the answers for why these senseless acts of mass violence occur, we can only make up our own constantly shifting opinion.
Dark Night will be too little for most viewers, or pointlessly pretentious to others. It's still one-of-a-kind, and visually gorgeous. Aided by Maica Armata's spare music, popping up throughout like mournful echoes from another realm.
Dark Night may lack a certain cathartic emotional punch, and it isn't always quite as successful in what it aims to achieve. But it remains a singular experience that ultimately lingers in the mind.
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