Eros & Thanatos in La-La Land

Nightcrawler, the directorial debut of Dan Gilroy, known for his writing skills on movies such as Real Steel and The Born Legacy has found a interesting balance between nail biting joyride and social comment, be it somewhat hidden.

The elusive protagonist succinctly put forward by Gyllenhaal is deliberately depicted without any past nor is there any change in character throughout the story. He stays predatorily focussed on making it big at all time. Although Gilroy insists on putting Gyllenhaal at the center of the story, it is actually not all about Lou. Lou (with his wide-eyed haunting face) is rather the personification of a sociopathic culture (eat or be eaten) and it is the two antagonists struggle with this caricature that is of interest as a social comment. Of course there are subtexts about amoral behaviour, the somewhat moralising but caricature way in which the sensational media is depicted and the monetization of crime but these are mere devices to keep the viewer on the edge of his seat.

Nevertheless the meat of the story resides in the struggle of the two protagonists (Rick and Nina) with this unrelenting force that is Lou. While there are an abundance of moments in which Lou uses mimicry to learn and leverages himself into various situations, takes advantage of every opportunity to maximise his presence, praying on the two protagonists while climbing his own mental corporate ladder, this story is ultimately about a kind of corporate culture infested with psychopathy.

The two contrasting cathartic moments at the end which depict the opposing ways of dealing with this sociopathic culture of eat or be eaten are truly revelatory. While Nina internalises/embraces the culture, Rick just keeps on struggling and ultimately loses. When put this way it also becomes a stark depiction of Freud’s life and death drives: Eros & Thanatos. The one dies in his boldness to oppose, the other gives in and celebrates her thirst for more. In the end all that’s left is the incessant renewal of this viral sociopathic culture disguised as a seemingly casual scene of Lou taking “the next step” in his post-recession American Dream craze.

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