Nocturama: A Unique Terrorism Thriller

Nocturama. Courtesy of Grasshopper Films.

Nocturama is such a unique terrorism thriller and one that ought to be experienced on the big screen.

Written and directed by Bertrand Bonello, the film stars Finnegan Oldfield, Laure Valentinelli, Hamza Meziani, Manal Issa, and Robin Goldbronn.  Bonello proves to be a triple-threat as he scores the film menacingly, too.

The film starts as we follow a group of teens in Paris.  At first, we don’t know what they are up to but we soon learn following carefully crafted scenes that they are involved with a terrorist plot.  We eventually learn that their bombing targets include the Ministry of the Interior, the HSBC tower, several cars outside of The Paris Bourse and a Joan of Arc statue.   There was a fourth target and I can’t remember which one it was to save my life.

Following the attacks, the group takes refuge in a shopping center.   Bonello stays with the group of teens as far as the point-of-view is concerned.  We don’t know how the outside world has reacted or what the media is saying aside from the TV screens in certain instances.

But why Paris?  Hasn’t Paris been through enough over the past few years including the Charlie Hebdo shooting or other terrorist attacks?  It turns out that Nocturama is a film he started working on five years before the film was released–so the script predates the 2015 attacks in Paris.

“As a filmmaker, I’m not a substitute for a journalist, a sociologist or an historian,” Bonello says.  “My aim isn’t to decipher current events or to comment on them.  In any case, current events are too quick for film, which will always be overtaken if it attempts to stick to them.  The strength of fiction lies elsewhere – in the recreation of a world with its own rules, logic and key elements.  Observation rather than analysis.”

For a foreign film, it’s very hard to see it classified it as such because the film is so short on dialogue over the course of 130 minutes.  I’ll be honest in that I had to watch this in two sittings mostly because it’s never a good idea to start watching a film after spending the better part of three hours transcribing a phone call.  I watched the first 40 minutes two days ago and started right where I left off today.  I’d recommend watching it all at once.

Nocturama is a film that will stay with you long after you finish watching.  I think a lot of this may be in part to the lack of dialogue or because of Bonello’s filmmaking style.  It’s not a silent film and there’s a wealth of soundtrack including “My Way” late in the film.

After playing several festivals since summer 2016 and opening in the US on August 11, 2017, Grasshopper Film will bring Nocturama to Chicago on September 8, 2017, where it will be playing at Facets Cinematheque.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

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