Nocturna (the double feature) was not at all what I was expecting and I am, after finishing both films, a little perturbed. It is one of those films that no synopsis or trailer can really prepare you for; a film that breaks norms and conventions and dares to take chances. The proverbial envelope was most definitely pushed and now we have to decide whether or not it was for the better.
From Argentinian director Gonzalo Calzada and starring three-time Argentine Critics Association Award-winner and Spanish Academy Goya Award nominee, Pepe Soriano (Ulises), alongside industry veteran Marilu Marini (Dalia), comes Nocturna: Side A – The Great Old Man’s Night. The film follows an old man during an unforgettable evening that may very well turn out to be his last. In Nocturna: Side B – Where Elephants Go to Die, Calzada embarks on an aesthetically opposite experimental twist of the same story.
The initial film follows the harrowing exploits of Ulises and Dalia over one fateful evening; an evening that seems to start like any other but one that slowly brings up a troubling history between the seemingly sweet, elderly couple. As the film progresses, light is shone onto their lives, their history together, their shared distrustful nature, and how the couple ended up in such a state—waning memories in a deteriorating, albeit luxurious, apartment. An incident with a neighbour, Elena, then sends events spiralling out of control.
Artistically, there is a lot to unpack and fans of heavily used colourization, saturation and stylization will be more than amused with the deep blues and dark tones throughout, as well as the staggered editing meant to represent the broken and confused mind of Ulises as he deals with what is either the onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia. In truth, the film would be rather breathtaking if not for its unnerving nature. The shots are very carefully chosen and meticulously edited; it’s a morbidly beautiful nightmare told in a heartfelt and mindful manner.
Above all else, the first film is more depressing than it is scary. Yes, there are plenty of moments that would categorise this as horror film so have no doubt that in that regard, but understand that the nature of the horror of the film is used in an almost Shakespearian manner; to tell a story of regret and tragedy rather than to hide under a blanket on the sofa, peeking through a crack at your television waiting for a jump scare.
Side B is not a separate film, but rather a fever dream addendum to the feature presentation. While the first film takes place primarily through the eyes of Ulises, Side B is more a mixture of scenes probably cut from Side A as well as the happenings as seen through the eyes and perspective of Dalia, painting her in a somewhat more human light than she is afforded in Side A. The filming, editing, cuts and shots are also far more experimental and chaotic in nature, Gonzalo Calzada taking full advantage of the fact that he can be as creative and crazy as he likes with the contents of Side B and holding nothing back. It is experimental filmmaking from start to finish and you’ll either love or hate it. It is—however—entirely unnecessary viewing as Side A is able to stand on completely on its own without its unhinged counterpart.
I’d probably suggest that you give this flick a skip if you are coming into this expecting your run-of-the-mill horror movie. The film refuses to slot neatly into a specific genre and rather ebbs and flows through a series of emotions, as one would when facing the end of life’s journey. It really is a beautiful but sad tale and one that I would recommend to anyone, but not necessarily expect everyone to enjoy. Having recently dealt with death a few times myself, I’ll freely admit that this film tugged on the ol’ heartstrings and left me quite emotional. Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. Artwork and trailer below.
Site founder. Horror enthusiast. Metalhead.