A film about a sociopath that develops a passion in the morally questionable "art" that is capturing disturbing imagery and discovers a career opportunity to exploit. Dan Gilroy's brilliant directorial debut featuring perhaps actor Jake Gyllenhaal's best performance to date. This article reviews the film, discusses themes and contains spoilers.
Through the Eyes of a Sociopath
The film is structured very curiously with no sense of conscience attached to the character's actions. The cinematography and musical score of the film create an atmosphere that treats Lou as the typical story of an underdog that overcomes obstacles and conflicts and succeeds but interestingly do so without a sense of morality; much like Lou himself probably sees his success. The film is structured as follows:
Lou is unemployed and struggling to find employment
Lou finds a field of his interest..
..but is unable to find his place in
Lou captures his own footage without any employer with faith in his vision..
..and finds success..
Lou has competition (Obstacle #1)
Lou overcomes competition..
and captures his most "beautiful" (in the words of Rene Russo) work of art..
..overcomes obstacle #2 (the accusation of withholding evidence)
..and is able to start his own business.
Good on you, mate! Right? Absolutely not. The film has this sociopathic tendency to overlook its (Lou's, more specifically) wrongdoings. Possibly murdering a cop, tampering with evidence in a crime and withholding information, planning the convergence of police and two criminals to allow for collateral damage he can capture and perhaps the most abhorrent, leading his employee (and the film's moral centre) to his death.
This approach to making the film is brilliantly executed and very creative. The film is fully aware of and mocks your inability to root for Lou with his victory by freeing him of consequence. This works against the viewer's understanding of morality (Lou is never punished) and should leave the viewer uneasy (unless, ofcourse, you're a sociopath).
Interpretations of the Themes Lou's Story explores:
The Birth of an Artist
Truman Capote spoke of artists as dangerous people. That Artists are those that abide only by their vision ready to abandon all understanding of conventional thinking and norms and that this can open one's mind to new ideas of faith and morality. Lou is shown to be a sociopath from the movie's get go. There is no slow progression into becoming a sociopath but just how Lou views the world. Whatever realisation or philosophy or abandoning of morality that lead Lou into his outlook of the world is similar to the artist's obedience to their vision but whether its byproduct is destruction (art is mere expression) or beauty and inspiration is left to the artists' philosophy. Quite literally though, Lou develops a passion for capturing footage (an art of its own; cinematography) and its being bloody imagery was only because it was profitable to the news' station he sold his 'artwork' to. Which opens to more interpretation such as:
The byproduct of Economics and a Material World
Perhaps the most interesting, this interpretation sees Lou as the remnants of a society run by a give or take, supply and demand psychology that progressed into a heartless profit focused machine based on human behaviour jargon that is as passively a sociopath (world poverty) that Lou shows himself to actively be.
Lou Bloom: What if my problem wasn't that I don't understand people but that I don't like them?
Could Lou mean that the Economic model the world abides by that pays little or no attention to anyone who has nothing to offer to its profitability which leaves them in poverty is what he doesn't like about "people" (the world)? Perhaps Lou Bloom was a victim of poverty (homeless and poor?) and realised that success in a heartless world meant being so and thus found that very model to be an art?
Lou Bloom: I'm a hard worker. I set high goals, and I've been told that I'm persistent. Now, I'm not fooling myself, sir. Having been raised with the self esteem movement so popular in schools, I used to expect my needs to be considered. But I know that these days, our culture no long caters to the job loyalty that could be promised to earlier generations. What I believe, sir, is that good things come to those who work their asses off. And that people such as yourself, who reached the top of the mountain didn't just fall there. My motto is, if you want to win the lottery, you have to make the money to buy the ticket.
Even though the context Lou says quote #1 in is followed by a verbal threat to coerce his employee into acting against his will, could Lou Bloom be a commentary on the world's materialism? Furthermore, Lou hires a homeless man (Richard) despite his lack of qualifications and skills which is especially uncharacteristic of someone so particular about his business. He reminds Rick that the opportunities offered to him are ones to be pounced on. Lou could have hired a homeless person out of sympathy and hoped that they ended with a shared vision in the business but Rick, instead of exploiting the opportunities offered to him working under Lou despite its criminal nature, betrays Lou's trust and Lou leads him to death, much like the world lets the poor starve, because he wasn't willing to embrace Lou's twisted methods but instead use them to blackmail him for more pay.
The theory may be far fetched, no doubt but Lou Bloom is clearly a theme more than a real character. His very speech is reminiscent of Economic jargon, his relationships are all based on common advantage and supplies of services by both parties; Lou Bloom is more of a commentary on society than the story of a human being (he isn't one).
Nightcrawler is without a doubt a brilliantly layered, thought provoking social commentary and definitely a movie worth analysing. Such films are not too common and I greatly appreciate Dan Gilroy and Jake Gyllenhaal's work.
Thank you for reading.