Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night and Nocturna: Side B – Where the Elephants Go to Die arrive on DVD and Digital Platforms on January 18th through Breaking Glass Pictures.
Our lives on this beautiful planet we call home are a stunning mosaic of experiences, thoughts, dreams and actions. This intricate mosaic is unique to everyone; some parts are bathed in light while others remain hidden in shadow. However, as we age, this mosaic comes alive as we look back at the pieces that made us, even the parts we tried to bury or forget over time.
Films have long held a mirror to the universal need to find peace as we look back over our lives. For example, the highly praised indie movie Buck Alamo explored how our memories, choices and decisions collide in the final moments of life. At the same time, Jacob’s Ladder (1990) provided a nightmarish vision of the no man’s land between life and death. But, no film in recent years has explored these themes with the emotional intensity of Nocturna: Side A and Side B. Here, art, emotion, fear, and love combine to create a truly unique, haunting and beautiful journey.
READ MORE: BUCK ALAMO
Writing about a film like Nocturna is always a challenge for any film critic. After all, how do you talk about the sheer beauty and emotion of such a complex gem without ultimately giving the story away? Some may argue I have already said too much, and maybe I have. Therefore, no detailed synopsis of Nocturna Side A and Side B is in this review. Instead, I will focus solely on the bare bones of the narrative structure and the artistic merit of both sides, A and B.
Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night
Writer-director Gonzalo Calzada’s story centres on 100-year-old Ulises (Pepe Soriano) and his wife, Dalia (Marilú Marini). During one stormy night, we join Ulises and his wife in their Buenos Aires apartment as life, death, pain, regret, and love merge into a complex and layered exploration of mortality, endings and beginnings. Calzada’s movie is split into two unique parts: (Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night), the main story, while (Side B – Where Elephants Go to Die) provides us with a beautiful, poetic, and experimental exploration of the leading film’s themes. One part ghost story and one part social drama, Nocturna, is rooted in the memories of Ulises and Dalia, the game of hide and seek that brought them together as children repeated throughout one deeply emotional night.
The sheer power of Nocturna sits within the artistry and stunning performances surrounding its complex story; here, Calzada’s ghost story reflects the narrative style of M.R. James and Dicken’s, while the visuals echo the beauty of Guillermo del Toro’s early work. Meanwhile, his social drama is structured around the nature of memory, the march of time and the need to find peace.
READ MORE: SUPERNOVA
In representing the march of time and the enduring yet fading nature of memory in old age, Calzada cleverly switches between the childhood bodies of Ulises and Dahlia and their now fading adult selves. Here he reflects the brain’s ability to take us further back as we become lost in a fog of confusion while also reflecting the need for security and care in both our younger and old age. Here one powerful scene sees Ulises suddenly call out for his mother while standing outside his apartment in a confused state, a topic we return to in the emotional powerhouse of Nocturna’s final act. And make no mistake, this haunting gem is incredibly powerful; in fact, I would advise having a box of tissues next to you throughout.
Sometimes a film has the power to reflect some of the most profound and complex truths of life, and occasionally celluloid itself becomes a memory and experience that never leaves your side. Nocturna is one of those rare films; its sheer power, beauty and depth, something to treasure, reflect upon and store as a moment where a movie became a new visual, auditory and narrative memory forever stored in your mind.
READ MORE: RELIC
Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night and Nocturna: Side B - Where Elephants Go to Die
Sometimes a film has the power to reflect some of the most profound and complex truths of life, and occasionally celluloid itself becomes a memory and experience that never leaves your side. Nocturna is one of those rare films.