Gonzalo Calzada has a double feature for us. There is “Nocturna Side A The Great Old Man’s Night” and “Nocturna Side B Where the Elephant’s Go to Die”.
Side A “The Great Old Man’s Night” seems to have been widely accepted by reviewers as a horror film. Certainly, there are fragments of horror primarily near the end of the film but as I repeatedly asked myself, “Why” this and that has been projected I would label this more as a mystery suspense. But if I want to push the genre of horror I would say this film explores dementia and its horrors.
Ulises and Dalia are husband and wife in their 90’s living in some formerly grand flat in some Argentinian city. They have been together since their teen romance.
Ulises (Pepe Soriano) is suffering from some form of dementia as he sometimes forgets where he is going and what he should be doing. He is mixed up in time. His wife Dalia (Marilu Marini) is predominately a shrill, spiteful and sarcastic character and she plays that side of her role brilliantly.
Ulises and Dalia live a cloistered life in their flat which they have lost the ability to maintain. Ulises does go out shopping for food and talks to the superintendent Daniel but he wants to be out more but strong-willed Dalia retorts why go out as everyone we knew is dead.
This isolation of the elderly is explored in detail in the film as is the decline in mental and physical health, the long-ago decimated romance, the lack of credibility afforded to the elderly, regret of life decisions and the destructive nature of family disputes.
The film focuses on the last day of Ulises’s life and like his namesake Ulysses you are going on an epic journey that is less than a day but seems a very long and tiring journey for Ulises and viewers.
Dalia and Ulises have severed contact with their daughter due to her pregnancy out of wedlock not knowing who the father is. Dalia calls her a slut and Ulises has forgotten her name. Their son Carlos, Dalia says has forgotten us. Given the nasty streak in Dalia’s character who would want to call her their mother. Her bitterness does not endear her to anyone and her husband Ulises confesses to her I am afraid of you and calls her a mean mean woman. Dalia apologizes and begs for forgiveness this being about the first time we see any decency from this sniping and vituperative woman.
Then there is the neighbour Elena a thirtyish photographer and artist who falls out of her window and dies after landing on Ulises’s and Dalia’s patio after banging ferociously on their door for help. Was it suicide or was she pushed? The firemen arrive and put Elena in a body bag. The superintendent smells gas yet again that Ulises has caused by failing to turn off the burner so he says he will phone their son Carlos about this dangerous situation. Carlos phones early in the morning saying he will be there later in the morning as he has made “arrangements” for his parents.
But has Helena died? That’s when some horror kicks in as after the body is carted away she is banging on the door over and over again. Elena may be a metaphor for Ulises’ daughter trying to get back into their lives? Why has Helena taken photos of Ulises and hung them on her developed photo line? Why did she jump or was she pushed by her ex who says to Ulises she has taken everything from me and shoots himself in the head and as a ghost enters her apartment?
Ulises discovers his daughter’s phone number on a photo of her hidden behind another picture he had forgotten that he had hidden and that photo on the back Irene (the daughter) says “I love you”.
Carlos arrives and finds his father dead of a heart attack holding a picture of Irene. At this point you are ready to wrap this sad story up but at the conclusion of the movie Calzada turns you on your head. Did anything you saw in this movie happen or has dementia overtaken Ulises completely and has him living in a world that does not exist? The horrors of dementia.
The film has won numerous awards including best actor/actress which Soriano and Marini deserve. Calzada’s awards as best director are merited. I love those films that leave you saying WTF just happened and after watching this one twice I am still saying that in an entirely positive way.
Oh pay attention to the documentary Ulises is watching about the death of elephants as it no doubt has relevance to Side B of Nocturna “Where Elephants Go To Die”.
The film will be released January 18th on iTunes/Apple TV, Amazon Prime Vide, Google Play, Xbox, Vudu, Vimeo, DirecTv, DVD and with some satellite providers.
Side B is a bit too artsy for me.
RKS Film Rating 94/100.