Winner of the Lanterna Magica Award at the Venice Film Festival following its premiere at Sundance, Tim Sutton’s third feature – Dark Night – tells the dramatised story of the 2012 Aurora shooting in Colorado, where 12 people were shot dead whilst watching a screening of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises. Sutton (appropriately) does not attempt to reproduce such a nightmarish massacre on screen; rather, the movie is a perfectly timed crescendo, leading up to the event and the spectators, for good reason, do not witness a dramatisation of the actual shooting. Dark Night in fact follows the monotonous quotidian lifestyles of six strangers over the course of one day (the shooter being one of these individuals), finally showing us – in a particularly harrowing denouement – these people all in the cinema waiting for the Nolan screening. One avid fan, Batman mask proudly placed upon her face, proclaims, “This is going to be amazing”. A cut to the gunman outside walking into the Cineplex, closing the door behind him, and a fade out into a shot of the eerie but tranquil dawn sky ends the film.
Sutton’s amalgamation of both narrative storytelling and documentary creates a sense that we are not solely covering the massacre of Aurora as a reconstruction; the expansive and exquisitely crafted landscape shots – both aerial and on the ground – of the streets, the buildings and the surrounding environment (particularly palpable with the use of Google Maps) articulate a morbid and very real landscape. It is a place shot with objectivity, a social (almost anthropological) commentary, but one with few words or politics. The slow and trance-like cinematography captures an environment tainted by the suburban-American obsession with gun violence, a landscape burdened with a strong and deep silence; a deathly silence that also pervades the film.
Dark Night is unorthodox in its approach to tackling a real-life catastrophe. There are no intended politics or perspectives on the matter, neither are the fictional characters used as a means of expressing the director’s opinion, allowing for a certain heartfelt respect to the tragedy. The film rather takes an extremely minimalist and understated style, one that seems equivocal at first in all its elliptical nature, but a style that allows for a striving towards more objective and earnest representations of real-life devastations.
Dark Night is released nationwide on 18th August 2017.
Watch the trailer for Dark Night here: