American loneliness, ennui, longing for fame, and romance with guns collide in “Dark Night,” writer/director Tim Sutton’s hypnotic waking dream. The film opens with an extreme close-up of a young woman’s right eye reflecting flickering images which seem to be from a movie screen but are revealed in the wider shot to be the spinning lights on emergency vehicles, parked a short distance from where she sits on the curb, stunned, wearing a tank top sporting the American flag.
Flashing back to earlier that day, several Sarasota County, Florida teenagers and young adults involved in their ordinary routines, and an “interview” with a concerned mother and her deeply alienated son in their living room, are exquisitely photographed by cinematographer Helene Louvart. A gun-owning vet, uncomfortable with home and family, Summer, an endlessly selfie-shooting aspiring model/performer, skateboarders (who glide by each other in a stunning shot), Jumper, an angry 20-something with otherworldly turquoise eyes, and a girl who’s bored at work in a discount clothing store, move through eerily empty landscapes. The mall parking lot is nearly carless and a neighborhood of small, tidy houses flanked by tropical foliage is so devoid of the neighbors that one resident can stomp through, aiming his large gun without being noticed. Stills of the roads from Google Earth show few people, lots of cars.
The indistinct lyrics of trance-like songs (composed and performed by Maica Armata) and peripheral reminders of the 2o12 movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colorado, contribute to an atmosphere of dread. More than one of Sutton’s characters (all effectively portrayed by nonprofessional actors) seems likely to slip sanity’s bonds for a crazed catharsis of violence. And as the would-be shooter strides purposefully to the multiplex, carrying a duffle bag of weapons, his face finally relaxes into a smile. Flickering images from a movie projector follow, and heard on the soundtrack, likely the most unnerving cover of “You Are My Sunshine.”
“Dark Night” will open at Alamo Drafthouse Downtown Brooklyn on Friday, February 3. Q&As with with Tim Sutton will follow the 6:30 pm show (also on Saturday, February 4 and Sunday, February 5).