Sundance Film Festival, 2016
A survivor of a movie theater massacre sits on a curb outside wearing a shellshocked but blank expression. The police have arrived with their sirens and lights filling the night air. The colors on her face alternate between blood red and sea blue. This is the American flag of Tim Sutton’s “Dark Night,” a portrait of a country where the threat of senseless death by firearms seeps into every fiber of the national consciousness.
Sutton uses a facsimile of 2012’s Aurora theater shooting at the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” as a springboard into a tone poem for a rattled, tattered America. Calling the film “episodic” does not do justice to the experience of watching the film. “Dark Knight” is like a mosaic inside of a kaleidoscope. It’s the story of isolated individuals who all converge on a single theater, but their real connection lies in their loneliness, disappointment and despair.
The film consists of little moments and glances – a Ronald Reagan portrait on the wall, a slightly obfuscated selfie – that Sutton grafts together with jump cuts and white noise to discuss larger ideas about contemporary community in America. The only thing that draws these disparate humans together is the promise of escape into fantasy. They form, to some extent, a makeshift community inside the theater. A group of like-minded individuals all with their eyes on one thing. (Ironically, not each other.) What makes that shooting, and “Dark Night” by extension, so frightening is the way it dwells on the destruction of something so rarely found anymore. B+ /