PrintE-mail Written by Peter Turner

Paris becomes the victim of yet another terrorist attack in Nocturama, as a diverse bunch of youths come together to make the city of love burn. Nocturama is timely, perhaps far too timely for some, but even as it addresses contemporary concerns, it completely shies away from addressing a major elephant in the room.

So while Nocturama features a group of youths who plan to shake Paris with a series of explosions, the reasons for this turn to terrorism avoid what perhaps could be considered the obvious. Revealed slowly in flashbacks, some of these kids are from poor backgrounds, and others appear fired up by studying politics in classes. Whatever their motivations, they come together one afternoon and detonate bombs across the city that will leave Paris on high alert. They regroup once their mission is complete and for dubious reasons, decide to hide out for the night in a department store full of luxury goods.

While sirens wail outside, the youths take shelter indoors and play pretend with all the trappings of modern life that they may well have normally been denied. The only thing that's missing from this Dawn of the Dead remake is the zombies. As the kids try out booming speakers, watch the news on widescreen televisions and try on designer clothes, it's clear that any anti-capitalist sentiment they hold can quickly be forgotten as they get to explore the excess that drives the economy.

Director Bertrand Bonello employs a prowling steadicam to track these characters, at first as they crisis-cross Paris in preparation and then later as they aimlessly stroll around the department store surrounded by symbols of materialism. There's a slow and deliberate pace, occasionally enlivened by the booming music coming out of the state of the art department stereos, and Bonello throws in a few neat tricks as certain scenes are replayed from different perspectives, particularly as things take a turn for the tense in the final scenes.

What Nocturama lacks is any mention of religion and particularly religious motivations for recent terrorist attacks in France and increasingly across Europe. It avoids spelling out the reasons for its youths strike against the powers that be, but banking practices are briefly highlighted. Perhaps this is a deliberate attempt to shift blame from the obvious places, but it also feels like a cop-out to some extent. Wouldn’t it be more potent to tackle France’s relationship with its own very real extremists in a more direct manner?

Still, Nocturama ends with a plea for compassion, but this has been numbed by a somewhat indulgent build-up to the climax. Despite its contemporary relevance, it's a shame this didn't dig deeper and tackle the more precise, pressing issues France (and the rest of Europe) faces today.


Expected: 6
Actual Rating:

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