The Nightingale- My Take

Jennifer Kent’s second major film, The Nightingale, has intrigued me since I saw the previews for it earlier this year. I enjoyed her first film, The Babadook, and being a fan of period movies, The Nightingale seemed right up my alley.  Overall I mostly enjoyed this film, and while there were elements from The Babadook I would have liked to have seen more strongly be carried over into The Nightingale, they are both different enough genre films that they can stand on their own merit. The Nightingale is, overall a stripped down film, and I strongly feel this was the right choice directorally, as the plot itself is simple and in another director’s hands, could have run the risk of being overly formulaic. While there were times that this film could have used some editing, especially in the last 3rd, the visceral aspects of violence and to an extent, human connection, were strong enough to keep me invested. The first 1/3 of the film is especially visceral in its depiction of rape and violence under the auspices of power imbalance, and the major antagonist, played by Sam Claflin, is rather quickly made out to be a nasty amoral individual. The character is one that as written, runs the risk of becoming overly cartoonishly evil, but Claflin plays him in a manner that leads the audience both to greatly dislike him, but also to understand the situational factors as to why he would driven to such actions in the first place. All in all, the lives of soldiers in the colony wasnt much easier than that of convicts, in many aspects. Aside from the aspect of human connection Kent builds between Aisling Franciosi’s character and her Aboriginal guide/partner, the major strength of this film rests on it’s portrayal of the hierarchical and very unbalanced power dynamics at play in 1820’s Tasmania. The major unifying factor between Clare and Billy becomes their shared experience of being subjugated by the English who have the political and technological power in this scenario, and from an Australian perspective , becomes a very personal look at that nation’s early history.  The film also does a strong job of depicting the atmosphere of the Tasmanian wilderness as both foreboding (to the whites) , and inviting/protecting (the  Aborigines). While there are some scenes during the chase phase that are a bit long, it serves to allow time for building up some degree of tension, but also giving us a greater look at the Black/White pair that serve as the protagonists. For viewers that aren’t fans of films lacking any positivity or growth, this is the section to pay attention to.   Overall, I enjoyed the film, and my only major criticism is that the final scenes in the town should have been cut down or entirely removed all-together. If the climax of the revenge hunt was written right after the main protagonists receive help from the elderly couple, I think it would have served the film better, and with the same ending kept, would have made it feel a bit more concise and tight.

 

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