Nocturna: Side A — The Great Old Man’s Night
★★★★1/2 out of ★★★★★
Director Gonzalo Calzada takes two decidedly different looks at aging and regret in his supernatural one–two punch. Side A is must-see viewing for aficionados of thinking persons’ fright fare, while Side B is an experimental companion piece.
Directed by Gonzalo Calzada
If you think a film in the supernatural horror genre can’t move you to tears, the Argentinian feature Nocturna: Side A — The Great Old Man’s Night (Argentina, 2021) will have you strongly reconsidering your position. This film — one of the absolute finest of the year, regardless of genre — puts viewers through an emotional wringer as it unfolds the story of Ulises (Pepe Soriano), a man in his nineties who may fail to remember what he is doing at a given moment, but who can’t forget some of his decades-long regrets. He lives alone in an apartment with his wife Dalia (Marilú Marini) — they have been together since they were kids — estranged from their adult children, and letting no one in for fear that they will be placed in an assisted living home. A series of burglaries within the building puts the elderly couple at further unease, but things start spiraling out of control when their upstairs neighbor Elena (Desirée Salgueiro) comes frantically banging at their door, begging for help. Writer/director Gonzalo Calzada has made a moving, sensational film that works marvelously as a horror film but would be just as incredible if those horror scenes were removed. Soriano puts on an absolute acting clinic, and that is reason enough to seek out this gem. Marini also turns in a terrific performance, and the members of the supporting cast are all strong, too. Claudio Beiza’s stunning cinematography splendidly captures the claustrophobic — but impressive looking in its set design — apartment and the action within and without.
Nocturna: Side B — Where the Elephants Go to Die
Directed by Gonzalo Calzada
★★★ out of ★★★★★
Nocturna: Side B — Where the Elephants Go to Die (Argentina, 2021) works best as a companion piece to Nocturna: Side A — The Great Old Man’s Night, for viewing after watching that first film, as opposed to viewing as a stand-alone feature. This 67-minute outing is an experimental work that takes a different look at the events of the first film, narrated through wife Dalia’s quite different, more jaded perspective. The visuals and approach recall the works of Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin (Tales from the Gimli Hospital ; The Forbidden Room ) and early David Lynch, and include film scratches to give the film a more aged aesthetic, hearkening back to home-movie days and even the silent movie era. Although Nocturna: Side B — Where the Elephants Go to Die is an ambitious project, it isn’t an easy one to follow, even after repeated viewings of the incredible Nocturna: Side A — The Great Old Man’s Night.
Reviews by Joseph Perry
Breaking Glass Pictures releases Nocturna: Side A — The Great Old Man’s Night and Nocturna: Side B — Where the Elephants Go to Die on DVD and Digital on January 18, 2022.
Note: the review for Nocturna: Side A — The Great Old Man’s Night has been adapted from my original review that appeared as part of my Arrow Video FrightFest 2021 coverage.