Nightcrawler (film)


Each time where the boundary has been crossed on our screen, we give up that much of our own dignity and privacy as a society. As the ubiquitous Marshall McLuhan saying goes "Medium is the message". While the original theory behind the saying applies on the one hand to the legitimacy that is taken on by Bloom's amateur videos in the news medium, in our world, it takes on new application. We live in the medium where audience can download or click on images created by the likes of Bloom. Each time we click on it, tweet it, Like it, share it or plain old down load it, it sends a message back to the creator that the new line they crossed is accepted or condoned by the audience: something that McLuhan may not have foreseen.

I think every generation has their version of a psycho. Mr. Bates, a Freudian child with mother issues tormented by his sexual desires; Mr. Bateman, a Wall St. financier drenched in ambition and greed; or Mr. Foster, a middle aged man with his suburban dreams in pieces.

Night Crawler follows Lou Bloom (acted by Jake Gyllenhaal) an unemployed man who tries desperately to get ahead in life. We don’t know what he used to do or what his story is but we don’t really care; we enter a metropolitan city where we constantly meet strangers with no past that come and go out of our lives just as quickly as one can follow and unfollow someone on Twitter.

Bloom represents the generation of the recession: the self-starting millennial without an easy path into the middle class who have been brought up on the idea that they are important no matter what. Bloom makes a buck by selling things he gains by wheeling and dealing. His attire is tidy and his mannerism, corporate. He cites motivational management slogans and self-help statements that roll of his tongue like a sales pitch. He is well versed in self-promotion and networking to get ahead in life. He is a fast learner and is good with technology. One night, Bloom sees a cameraman that is filming a car accident and becomes interested in it.

The gruesome events that fill our TVs screens at night often happen in public, so anyone can film them and get paid for it! Bloom gets himself a small camcorder and starts following the emergency radio. He is quickly hooked by the adrenaline and realises that he’s found himself his dream job and he has a talent for it. He weaves himself into TV studio contacts with a balance of self-promotion and psychological disguise. News studios that are desperately competing for audience in light-speed digital news space where the mantra is: “If it bleeds, it leads”. The speed of it all, the sensationalism, overwhelms all else; ethics, journalistic professionalism, the boundary of institution or even technocracy. The audience target wins the day and the audience loves blood.

Jake Gyllenhaal is wonderful as a psychotic crash chaser; he becomes more and more hungry for drama and sensation. The more graphic and violent the better. He ignores the boundary of privacy and humanity: a trait that in many situations would led to interpersonal disaster, but beneficial in the task of finding scenes as personal and graphic as possible. It’s as if he is following something down a rabbit hole, hypnotised by the capture. Gradually Bloom’s business expands and he gets himself an assistant, and stakes get higher as various interests threaten to knock down his business. How far will he go to maintain what he has built? Likely as far as the blood thirst of his viewers will take him.

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