I was interrailing towards Zurich when I heard about the shooting in Aurora, Colorado; reports and rumours said that a man dressed as the joker had opened fire during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. It soon transpired that the shooter did not mimic Heath Ledger’s crazed performance, but that detail did not make the event any less horrific.
I spent the remainder of the train journey morose and disturbed as I considered what the victims had gone through, what their blind panic must have felt like. I was particularly unsettled because there had now been a mass shooting in a cinema, a new precedent in America’s miserable history of gun violence. It would take a very tactful filmmaker indeed to try and work this hateful crime into a feature film.
With Dark Night, it appeared that Tim Sutton was the first director to take up this challenge; a quick read of a synopsis suggested that this would at least be a loose interpretation of that ghastly evening in Aurora.
Alas, Dark Night is far from being a nuanced, insightful drama about senseless violence, it is actually a pretentious art-house film with gawping young hipsters, bland indie music and the ponderous long takes that are so customary in films of this ilk. It aspires to look like Gummo, Ken Park, Bully or any other film with that suburban art-house aesthetic typical of Larry Clark and Harmony Korine.
As Dark Night takes us on an inexplicable journey through the banality of its subjects’ lives, there are some flashes of what could be interesting characters. There’s Aaron, a shaven headed, angsty young man who’s sometimes insightful but mostly inarticulate and adolescently world-weary. He spends most of his screen time ranting to his shrink as his mother sits beside him, her every molly-coddling word reeking of weakness and denial.
Then there’s a haunted veteran whose moods appear to be putting his family under heavy strain. We barely hear him speak, but we do see him attend a meeting with other unstable veterans after he has ominously polished three of his guns. Will either of these men be the shooter, or will it be ‘Jumper’, the other disturbed young man we see?
All actors involved give very naturalistic performances that could have been developed and expanded into real characters with real relationships, but director Tim Sutton seems more interested in fleshing his short film out with long shots of skate parks and other vacuous artsy BS. Whenever he comes close to achieving a modicum of dread or suspense, the lifeless plotting prevents any interest or narrative traction. It’s just too slow, too ponderous. And, worst of all, the jumbled narrative nullifies whatever comment Dark Night wants to make about gun violence.
Dir: Tim Sutton
Scr: Tim Sutton
Cast: Anna Rose Hopkins, Robert Jumper, Aaron Purvis
Prd: Alexandra Byer
DOP: Helene Louvart
Music: Maica Armata
Run time: 85 mins