Friday, November 6, 2020

Nocturne (2020)

Vivian and Juliet are twins, both working hard to become concert pianists. Both go to the same prestigious art high school, but Vivian has made it into Julliard while Juliet didn't and refused to apply anywhere else. An excellent violinist who also attends the school killed herself and left a notebook, detailing rituals on how she became so skilled. Juliet finds it and dismisses it at first, but delves into it when her sister outperforms her at every turn. 

Nocturne melds the world of esoteric rituals with the high pressure world of classical music performance. Juliet is the underdog in every respect and remembers that she prompted her and her sister to start piano lessons even though she's viewed as the inferior musician. Vivian, on the other hand, is a lauded pianist, has a loving boyfriend, an amazing piano teacher, and the high opinion of everyone in the school. Once the rituals come into play, Juliet shows herself to be very petty, copying her sister's audition piece and exposing jealousy for her sister's prestige.  

As someone coming from music schools, I appreciate the realism in how people treated musicians, the politics of the school, and the paths set out for students. I kind of wish it was a college instead of a high school because of the age of the actresses and the fact that few are this serious about a performance career that early. Family members around them criticize a career in the arts and question how secure it is. The politics of the school place Vivian above Juliet, even when Juliet outplays her sister because they want to go with the more reliable choice. Even in college or at the professional level, certain players are favored in auditions even if they didn't play well that day because of their reputation or who they study with or know. It's a cutthroat world that I decided not to be part of and I opted to teach and play for enjoyment. Juliet's teacher tried to show her such attainable paths and she refused to see them. 

The esoteric rituals in the film take everything from Vivian and give them to Juliet. At first, Juliet doesn't put much stock into the notebook until horrible things start happening that end up benefiting her. She goes from sympathetic and hard working to obnoxious and egotistical over the course of the film. Her dreams seem to be slipping away from her, so she goes all in on this Faustian deal in a desperate attempt to preserve it. I feel for her, but she goes too far. The most tragic thing is that she's still quite young and could have achieved her goals eventually with a different setting, different teachers, and a different outlook. 

While much of the film is light on horror elements, the anxiety and psychological tension surrounding Juliet sustained me until the end, where it steers fully into horror. I enjoyed the focus on music, the obsession with unattainable perfection, and the realities of being part of the music world. The ending is predictable if you pay attention, but I enjoyed it in all its glory. I would recommend this if you liked The Devil's Candy, Bliss, or Starry Eyes, all about risking everything to succeed in some form of art.

My rating: 4.5/5 fishmuffins

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