söndag 22 februari 2015

Nothing personal

How did this guy...

... become this guy?

An actor's job is to change his appearance. I understand that, and that is also part of the marvels that actors can do, and why we watch them. But sometimes they do things to themselves that go beyond the believable and that is really scary. Christan Bale lost so much weight he looked like he would disappear in The Machinist. Now Jake Gyllenhaal has managed to do something just as amazing - and horrible: The sympathetic cartoonist turned detective, the father who got hooked on The Zodiac and couldn't stop looking for the most dangerous man... The man whose eyes seemed to mirror all the pain and sadness in the world where evil lurks in so many forms... 

Now he has turned himself into Lou Bloom, a hollow man, a cartoon of a man, a man masquerading as a man, repeating slogans and HR-jiberish as if they really meant something, but with only one real purpose: to get you. It's a tour de force in acting, but I doubt very much that Jake Gyllenhaal will win any Oscar for his part in the film Nightcrawler. It is just too scary -  and too true.

The film critic Anthony Lane pointed it out before I saw the movie. This is from Lane's review in The New Yorker:
"The scariest thing about the new Jake Gyllenhaal film, “Nightcrawler,” is Jake Gyllenhaal. Or, to be precise, Jake Gyllenhaal’s eyes. They are sunk in their sockets. They have dispensed with blinking, and you can understand why; it would mean missing something important. They glare and they gleam, like the eyes of a man who is minutes away from death, furious with fever, and refusing to slip away in peace." 
Yes, those eyes. But not only the eyes. It's the cheeks, the forehead, the way his nose looks bigger and the smile... It is scary enough when he holds his mouth closed, but when he opens it, he looks like a predator getting ready for the kill. 

In Dan Gilroy's film, the nightcrawler is a parasite living on the misery of his fellow human beings. His name is Lou Bloom, but he has no human attachments, he lives alone in a tiny apartment, he has no family, no friends, no human contact outside his work. In the beginning of the film, we see him as a petty thief, stealing copper wires and beating a guard who asks him for his credentials - and then he steals tha guard's watch. By chance, he witnesses an accident, and how a camera crew for tv news films the accident, for a profit.

Lou Bloom decides that this should be his career. 

At first, one could take Lou Bloom for one of those outsiders in society who has been unlucky on the battle grounds of career building and success. When he goes to a tv station and sells his first piece, he mentions a class he's been to, where he has learned how to get motivated when job searching. Actually he talks a lot like a text book for people getting started in their careers. But the talk becomes  more and more scary because Lou Bloom doesn't use talk to get close to people. Verbal interaction for Lou Bloom (we never see him touch anyone physically, except for the guard in the beginning) is just a weapon in the fight for success. Lou Bloom talks to people only in order to gain control. 

Lou Bloom made me first think of Travis Bickle, the disturbed taxi driver in Martin Scorsese's film. Obviously because of his incessant nightly cruising and antisocial beaviour. Or Norman Bates, the obsessive murderer with the sweet, boyish smile as Anthony Perkins played him in Hitchcock's Psycho. But these characters are very different from Lou Bloom in two vital aspects: they both have a back story that explains who they are, and they end up being caught in their own violent actions.

We know very little of Lou Bloom. He might have more in common with Patrick Bateman, the beastly yuppie of Bret Easton Ellis' famous novel American Psycho, and the film by Mary Harron - with Christian Bale. 

Lou Bloom and Patrick Bateman both share a make believe personality. They are humans turned into robots, devoid of heart and feelings and normal, human reactions. To follow them around in their daily business is a horror experience in itself. These men don't react to other people unless there is a proper use in view - for them. They don't feel pain, shame, concern, guilt or anguish, and they don't know how to love or care for anyone else than themselves. The only feelings they do have, which has been pointed out by my husband, is greed and aggression.

In one particular scene in American Psycho, when Bateman is getting himself groomed for the day in his bathroom, he says one revealing line: "I am not here". Lou Bloom has a similar moment when he comments on the grisly material of violent death that he has just delivered to the tv station: "It looks more real on tv."

This refusal to be part of the world where the rest of us lives, with our sorrows and worries and loves and losses, is what makes Bloom and Bateman so scary.

They don't want any of this. But still, what they want makes them very dangerous to all of us. They will pursue their goal and let nothing stop them. They will kill you if you get in their way. Lou Bloom does it in a more subtle way, but he is just as dangerous as Bateman. 

The horror of it all is that these people exist and live among us. And this is where Dan Gilroy's film becomes an urgent critic of our times, with his cleareyed view of our society where media feed on our blood lust and hyenas become heroes. 

I am still in shock after seeing Nightcrawler, certainly one of the most important films made in recent years. I just hope Jake Gyllenhaal will find a way to get away from Lou Bloom.

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