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My New Favorite Movie: Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale”

It’s 4:00 in the morning, and I am completely rewriting the post I had planned for today. Why? Because I watched “The Nightingale,” written and directed by Jennifer Kent. And, wow. I absolutely loved it.

To put this into creative terms, as a writer, I’ve never before seen a piece of work that I felt such a kinship for. And damn, do I wish I had Jennifer Kent’s talent. From the opening credits to the moment the screen cut to black, “The Nightingale” spoke to me on a really visceral level, and it reminded me that I’m not the only artist who values delving into the darkest and most horrific parts of humanity in order to illuminate potential for change in our world.

Anyways, I know I’m late to the party, but I found “The Nightingale” after a review popped up on YouTube, touting it as the most graphic movie ever filmed. And of course, morbid curiosity got the best of me. From there, I looked up the trailer, read a few reviews, watched a few more videos about the film’s reception, awards, etcetera, and finally, my husband and I cozied up on the couch for a midnight viewing.

Before I go any further, I have to say: This is NOT the most violent movie of all time. People are blowing it way out of proportion, and by focusing on the violence, they’re missing the entire point of the film.

In fact, I would say that “The Nightingale” has a similar level of violence to my own novel, Pieces of Pink. Naturally, I understand this may skew my perception of the film, as I’m not easily triggered by depictions of murder or assault, but I feel it’s really important to emphasize that this film is no more violent than popular T.V. shows like “The Walking Dead,” “Game of Thrones,” or even “Outlander.”

Actually, I believe the reason that critics (and fans alike) are insisting that violence is the key element of this film is because they’re too uncomfortable with the idea that such violence could happen in our world (as opposed to an imaginary world filled with dragons, or zombies, or time travel). In other words, people are uncomfortable accepting the brutal truth: human beings have the capacity for carrying out unthinkable atrocities against one another.

For me, “The Nightingale” was the story of a young woman, Clare, who loses everything. People have been categorizing it as “rape revenge” and that’s way too simplistic. When I say Clare loses everything, I mean she loses everything but her husband’s horse, Becky. Essentially, Clare has nothing left to live for. (Because let’s face it, horses are … well, horses.) So, it’s not just the story of a woman who goes on a rampage. It’s the story of a woman whose life is destroyed by three individuals that are not held accountable for their actions, and so, justice is taken into the hands of the victim.

And contrary to some of the reviews I’ve seen, the movie isn’t just some “feminist agenda” to paint men as monsters either. In juxtaposition to Clare’s tale, “The Nightingale” also tells the story of of an Aboriginal man named Billy (who also refers to himself Mangana, or blackbird) who guides Clare through Tasmania on her quest to intercept the group of soldiers who (spoiler alert) murdered her husband and her baby.

Metaphorically speaking, it’s about a nightingale and a blackbird who have been caged by society, and have reached a point where they would rather die than have their wings clipped.

Really, between Clare and Billy, the film has less to do with rape, murder, revenge, or violence, and more to do with two people from different backgrounds who slowly lose their biased hatred for one another and come to realize that their lives and their struggles aren’t so different after all. In other words, it’s the story of two individuals who learn to feel compassion and empathy toward one another as human beings and as equals.

But, hey, I’m not a film expert. So, really your best bet is to go watch the movie yourself.

Anyway, it’s 4:53 and the birds have started chirping outside my window, so I should really head to bed. (So much for that lighthearted post about Camp Nanowrimo starting tomorrow.) I hope you all have a wonderful week, and feel free to comment below!

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