After the mother terror of Mister Babadook, director Jennifer Kent is back with a second feature film: The Nightingale. In Tasmania, in 1825, British soldiers raped a woman and destroyed her home. But the latter took up arms to make them surrender. It was this radical story that shocked the Venice Film Festival in 2018 (winning two prizes) and which finally arrived in France, published by Condor Films, on VOD, DVD and Blu-Ray.
When Officer Hawkins gave Clare the nickname Nightingale (“Nightingale”, in Mad Max parlance), it was not only to let her know how pleasant she sounded, but also to rob her of humanity from the young Irish prisoner. . He reduces it to qualities, qualities that he animalizes. What he doesn’t know is that by doing so, he will make this woman he desires the origin of the bloody, political and symbolic revolt, directed against him. Director Jennifer Kent has proven with previous films how skillfully she can navigate through a rich network of symbols and of course she didn’t randomly choose to attach a nightingale to the character played by Aisling Franciosi.
An incarnation of revenge in Greek mythology (Procne would encourage his rapists to devour his own son), the bird is more commonly referred to as the bearer of spring and the rebirth that accompanies it. So many ideas are at the heart of The Nightingale, as the filmmakers revisit the marked canvas of rape and revenge (a sub-genre that presents a female character’s rape and quest for revenge) to provide female survival and tell her story. emergence of the Australian nation.
Because this is what he revealed when Clare brought the real Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) so he guided him to the army he wanted revenge on. A bittersweet journey that uncovers the mechanisms of oppression in a country that is an open prison in the early 19th century, and where all social strata coexist in a pre-insurgency latent state. Always fixated on character influences, scenarios and cuts giving the complex feel of a universe on the verge of exploding.
To get us into this ultra-violent epic, the director opted for 1.33.1, a square format that will evoke some of the very new and discussed Snyder Cut ratios. Opportunity to compose images all in verticality, that nature destroys characters, or record their arrival.
During the first direct confrontation between the heroine and one of her torments, the staging shows that she will know how to feel our faces with as much skill in action as in contemplation. Plastic architecture that amplifies immersion by capturing the harshness of the face, and especially Clare’s lively rage. But also his shortcomings, his clear boundaries, he was the one who initially thought of his Aboriginal guides as animals, wild creatures that he had to take care of.
Because Kent isn’t there to tell another pop deconstruction of the genre, or the expected feminist thinking. It is the mechanism of domination by violence, and in particular its incarnation in the colonialist prison regime, that appeals to him. There is no easy salvation or heartwarming moral for those who inhabit The Nightingale. While Mister Babadook dares to portray the desire for death that lies dormant in every parent, the film grudgingly sees the birth certificates of a country falsified with the blood of its most vulnerable members.
And to achieve this, the director and screenwriter work with the audience on the body. The colors are cool, but never far off, thanks to Radek adczuk’s organic photography. The clashes emphasize the story like so many convulsions bordering on continuous ones, where they systematically push the protagonists beyond themselves. Poetry, on the other hand, slips imperceptibly into the piercing gaze of two individuals who are more and more united by revenge, until they become melancholy pits.
Less overt, more human and rebellious, Jennifer Kent’s cinema impresses, disappoints, and leaves us no respite. This is undoubtedly the reason why the film will remain, since its presentation at the Venice Film Festival in 2018, away from the screen. Too radical, too harsh, cruel to his audience as much as his subject, he owes his capacity for amazement only to the impressive talent of his writers.