Divided into two separate parts – the first of which can stand alone, and the second can work best as a dialogue with the first – “Nocturne” weaves memories and nightmares into a haunting tale of loneliness and regret.
In Side A – The Night of the Grand Old Man, we meet Ulysses (Pepe Soriano), a bewildered ten-year-old who lives with his infirm wife Dalia (Marila Marini) in a run-down apartment whose high ceilings and foggy windows surround a spacious prison. When Ulysses tries to go shopping, he is gently restrained by a super building; however, their food supplies are running low and Ulysses wonders why he can never leave, why their son never visits them, and why he cannot remember their estranged daughter’s name. Perhaps Dahlia is right and the homeowners association will evict them if they see how the couple is living. Or maybe his imprisonment is just Dahlia’s last cruelty in her entire life.
Like Ulysses, we are looking for answers, but Argentine writer and director Gonzalo Calzada is only interested in giving clues. As the clock nears the wee hours, the couple are woken up by their upstairs neighbor Elena (Desiree Salgueiro), who knocks on the door and screams for help. A growing atmosphere of fear and danger envelops the film as a terrified Ulysses is immersed in golden memories of a childhood game of hide and seek. However, the ghosts in the building – and the body in the yard – won’t let him leave.
Sad, strange, and deeply unnerving, “Side A” capitalizes on Claudio Beiza’s velvety, grey-green visuals and a heartbeat-throbbing soundtrack and Ulysses’ hearing aid squeal of dismay. Our assumptions about his life and marriage may harden; but only on “Side B – Where Elephants Go to Die” are they enriched and interrogated. Here Calzado uses more experimental methods to expand his narrative, drawing a parallel between the flickering fickleness of filmed images with physical and psychological decay. Together, these extraordinary films do more than contemplate loss and longing: they warn us that the time to make amends may be shorter than we think.
Nocturne: Side A – Night of the Grand Old Man
Not rated. In Spanish, with subtitles. Duration: 1 hour 47 minutes. Available to rent or purchase on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.
Nocturna: Side B – Where Elephants Go to Die
Not rated. In Spanish, with subtitles. Duration: 1 hour 7 minutes. Available to rent or purchase on Apple TV, Google Play and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.