On paper, Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama feels terribly prescient. After all, the plot focuses on a terror attack in the French capital. Not just an attack, but the simultaneous release of multiple explosives. Whilst ambiguous emotions might stir through the spirit at such a prospect – it might all feel a little ‘too soon’ – there is at least the prospect of a debate on conflict in the modern climate; the causes of terrorism, the symptoms exhibited by the disaffected and so on. It is ripe for discourse.
That is not what greets audiences, however. Instead, they are greeted by a shallow and adolescent film. It is one that offers no insight. None whatsoever. You might as well sit for two hours and ten minutes having a discussion with Joey Essex on particle physics. In fact, that would probably be more enlightening.
Bonello’s film isn’t simply guilty of being ill-thought through, it also features more narrative holes than a lump of Swiss cheese. John Lennon would have changed the ‘holes’ lyric in ‘A Day in the Life’ had he seen this feature. Whatever Bonello was smoking in the preparation for this film certainly defused the ember of a good idea. Instead, we have the ember of whatever he was puffing on.
His troupe of young characters converge in the heart of Paris with plans to blow the city up. We have no genuine explanation as to motive. A note of the time intermittently occupies the screen as the afternoon progresses. There is little-to-no dialogue for the opening fifteen minutes. These characters emerge without us knowing them and they depart without us knowing them. We learn nothing.
Furthermore, inconsistencies emerge in terms of approach. They are extremely cautious of all of their movements, until they arrive locked-in overnight in a department store and pretty much raid the place. There is no real characterisation. The bold expressions of form and film technique appear like a film student indulging in a ‘look at me’ exercise in thrall to their heroes. A case in point is the mimed performance (in drag) of ‘My Way’; a move that feels unearned and nothing more than an indulgence.
The ire in which this writer aims towards Nocturama is a measure as to the frustration at the wasted opportunity at the centre of its existence. A substantial pity.