Julius Caesar

Dissecting Nocturnal Animals

Of Ides of March Betrayals

As the soothsayer warned an ever-ambitious Caesar, “Beware the Ides of March,” here we are some two millennia later on another Ides of March. The assassination that followed and presumably changed the world christened this inauspicious day, March 15th, as the day of doom. The tragic betrayal by Brutus was encapsulated so succinctly in the line, “Et tu, Bruté?” croaked by Caesar as he collapsed on the stairs of the Senate. It is from this theme of betrayal that I pick up today’s topic: a dissection of the movie, Nocturnal Animals.

Creatures of the Night

Watching the Tom Ford directed, Oscar-nominated movie the other day, I was blown away by its unique storytelling format as well as its many themes and metaphors. Its ethos stems from its complex characters whose actions provide a poignant social commentary.

The movie offers so many talking points that I am sure I will continue to discuss it at length with the nomad for many days on end, but at its crux, it is the tale of Susan’s betrayal to her ex-husband, Edward and how it affected/shaped both their lives. Notwithstanding Edward’s failures as a writer, Susan leads him to believe that his stories weren’t compelling enough for books. Edward, struggling with a bruised ego then goes on to find his wife’s ultimate betrayal as she is in the arms of her paramour.

That was the betrayal which Edward gets a chance to overcome and redeem his life over with a book about himself or fragments of himself. In this book, he vividly expresses his feelings about that loss and betrayal through incredulous events and characters. The unsettling words on the pages make Susan squirm as she picks up on his double-edged words. She is made to lament her betrayal to Edward as well as take a harsher look at her current life.

Choosing to marry Edward was a defiant choice for her; she chose to turn her back on her family’s riches and pursue a man of simpler means. But, she ends up dumping Edward for the precise reason she chose him for – his supposed failures. She didn’t deem him driven enough or successful enough to make enough money. She returns to a life of opulence with her second husband and she “gets what she wants” but still isn’t happy.

Susan leads a lonely life where she succumbs to her guilt and anxiety in the silence of the night. There is something about the night that makes us more introspective about ourselves and Susan struggles with guilt, her failing career as an artist and her shambolic marriage.

Shakespeare’s Tragedies

The Bard is celebrated the world over for his four great tragedies. The themes of betrayal and subsequent guilt are what truly makes for compelling stories. Susan’s loneliness in the present day can be mimicked by Brutus’ loneliness following Caesar’s death. They both undergo moments where they question their choices, struggling to justify their rash decisions.

Presumably, this can be summed up by a sage old saying that dictates that “no good can come from harming somebody else.”


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