電影《夜鶯的哭聲》影評：[Film Review] The Nightingale (2018) 8.3/10夜鶯的哭聲影評
Emerging as a force to be reckoned with with her first two feature films, Antipodean filmmaker Jennifer Kent is such a top-line storyteller and sophisticated aesthete that every cinephile should put her on the esteemed pedestal as, perhaps, the next Jane Campion (if we lack a more germane comparison).
Kent’s second film THE NIGHTINGALE, entering Venice’s main competition in 2018, is a period revenge thriller mapped out on a much bigger canvas in terms of production scale and budget. In the early 19th century, Clare (Franciosi), a young Irish convict exiled in the British penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land (today Australia’s Tasmania island), suffers from the frequent sexual abuse of her master, British Lieutenant Hawkins (Claflin), when her husband Aidan (Sheasby) offends Hawkins in front of the latter’s inspecting superior, a malevolent retribution deep-sixes her family, afterwards, she is bent on her own vindictive mission after recruiting a young Aboriginal tracker Billy (Ganambarr), to shadow Hawkins and co., who are bushwhacking in the parlous inland region en route to another town aiming to secure Hawkins’ pending promotion.
In spite of her own servitude, the ad hoc pairing of Clare and Billy reeks pungently of racism itself initially, the indigenous Aboriginal folks are grossly deemed and treated as 「animals」 by their colonial settlers with lighter pigmentation (even a 「slave」 like Clare naturally looks down on them as inferiority beings), the irony is so scathing that the hierarchal prejudice only dissolves through their mutual hatred towards the British wrongdoers, heartfelt understanding and kindness that permeate profusely in their ensuing trek, which shows up Kent’s imperturbable gumption of exploring the colonization’s ugly truth from every possible way, no holds are barred in her unflinching execution, not least the brutal violence and heinous acts ranging from gang rape, infanticide, face-smashing, knife-stabbing to callous slaughtering, on that front, THE NIGHTINGALE is neither suitable for the squeamish nor the faint-hearted.
But one must hand it to Kent for the undeniable brilliance on display, for starters, THE NIGHTINGALE is a magnificent typographical ode to the land of Tasmania, correlating its flora and fauna, in particular, a worm’s eye view of the sky partially barred by the sylvan environs, with the protagonists’ roller-coaster journey, to say nothing of its poetic coda, when the dust finally settles, Clare and a wounded Billy escape to the beach, bathed under the golden rays of sunshine and gradually become enthralled in front of a rising sun, if that doesn’t take your breath away, you might be too hard-bitten for your own good.
Then, what is remarkably invigorating is Kent’s unique character arc of our avenging angel and her warrior, Clare is far from a one-faceted avenger who is mad keen to exact tit for tat on her enemies (the blood-thirsty outburst is timely quenched by her first encounter with the namby-pamby baby killer), she also has cold-feet when it comes to the crunch, betraying her innate feminine side as she trembles with fear and angst, fleeing to save her own skin (also constantly reminded by the painful lactation that she is a mother without her child), whereas Billy, a bit crimped in the stereotype, still conveys both vibes of empathy and heroics sure-footedly thanks to Ganambarr’s extraordinary aplomb, earnestness and compassion.
Moreover, Aisling Franciosi stoutheartedly holds court in her star-making turn, not only she can chant Irish Gaelic ditties with perceptible defiance (indeed, Clare’s final accusation is defiantly achieved through the song rather than the action), she can also turn frightfully uncompromising and hard-nosed to the gills. On a lesser note, pretty boy Sam Claflin shatters our expectation as a dyed-in-the-wool scumbag with no redeeming attribute, and Aussie veteran Damon Herriman is equally despicable as his white-trash underling.
Anchoring her films confidently in sterling central performances, Kent has beautifully flexes her muscle in transcending the genre filmmaking through her first two features, another female auteur should be veritably fêted as her male coevals.
referential entries: Anthony Minghella’s COLD MOUNTAIN (2003, 7.9/10); Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s THE REVENANT (2015, 8.1/10).