Nocturnal Animals is a sleek and stylish thriller from Tom Ford. It’s his second film, his first being the memorable A Single Man. In Nocturnal Animals, Susan (Amy Adams) receive a manuscript from her ex-husband that he’s dedicated it to her. As she reads the story about a family who take a road trip that goes horribly wrong, she begins to wonders whether the story she’s reading is about her.
There are three stories in Nocturnal Animals, Susan and her life in LA, the story-within-a-story set in West Texas, and a beautiful flashback to a younger and much softer Susan. The end result is a visually lavish film, and Tom Ford’s meticulous eye for detail shines through.
I caught up with the ever so talented Seamus McGarvey, the film’s cinematographer, to discuss working with Tom and how he differentiated the look between the three stories that we see on screen to create Nocturnal Animals.
On Working with Tom Ford:
It’s a really amazing film to work on. I had seen A Single Man and was excited about the prospect of working with him, and knowing what a genius he is in all aspects of his work.
When I first met him, I knew we’d get on creatively because we had this creative rapport and we shared this lexicon. That’s the great thing about working with him as a director, and a lot of the reviews of the film, almost as a criticism have touched on his visual adroitness. But, what’s great about it, is that’s what we were going for.
Before we even looked through a camera, the conversations were a democracy of ideas. Tom was great at communicating his visual ideas verbally. It was great because we felt connected, and felt like a contributor. It allowed us to embellish the imagery.
On Differentiating The Look:
The script had a ready-made signature. The more we talked about it, the more freedom it gave us. The great thing was it was all through Susan’s imagination and she is at the center of everything. She’s puppeteering the characterizations, and stylizations of milieu of location, and the cinematography itself.
I loved that we could stylize the West Texas stuff. I wanted something that almost feels like a screen print where the red,green and blue leap out, and the blacks go solid.
With her world, we can play with the disturbing, psychological angles on her world, and sense of observation through doorways and angles that employed horror movie tropes, in that what is not seen, is almost as potent as what is. The whole feeling of it had a sense of rectitude and symmetry, but there was something cracking at the edges. That was fun to work with.
The third part of the film was fun because we had to create this optimism. There were spots of light, and filtration on their faces and all of it was from Susan.
She is the cinematographer on this film, and that was the notion of it.
Nocturnal Animals is released
In Select Cities November 18
In Additional Cities November 23
In Theaters Nationwide December 9