Thoughts On: It Comes At Night - Chaos-Structure


It Comes At Night - Chaos-Structure

Quick Thoughts: It Comes At Night (2017)

A family in a post-apocalyptic world encounter strangers.

It Comes At Night is a genuinely brilliant film and one of the best dramas I've seen in the past few years. Without knowing anything about this, It Comes At Night seems to sell itself as a horror with its title and opening act. You in turn feel hints of Kubrick in the immaculate lighting and bold mise en scène. However, as the implications of horror and plot-centricity slowly melt away, the intimacy - that which separates the formal, structural and aesthetic approach of the narrative from a cold, elliptical, Kubrick picture - gives way to a complex tragedy and character study.

The focus of this narrative is a young man who yearns for a structured and normal life that a post-apocalyptic world destroys all hopes of. In such, our main character suffers under the strain of a world in which family is all you have, cooperation is all you have, food is all you have, water is all you have and today is all you have whilst disease threatens all concepts of possession and place. As a result, a family unit is just as vulnerable to being broken down - a grandfather turned into a mortal threat - as a group of new companions is, whilst words whispered in the slumber of the night that consider the future - hopes of love, family, compassion and humanity - dare not be uttered under the harsh light of the day. Within this world overshadowed by looming entropy, there is only one respite: strict structure and rules. This is our main character's internal and physical conflict that is materialised through his father.

Emerging from an apocalypse, there is one rule: survival. Lone survival is meaningless, however, and so leaders who can precisely and unemotionally keep themselves and those close to them alive will rule just as the father of this household does. There is nonetheless a tension in the role of this leader. Not only is he fallible and likely to make mistakes, but, to keep a family alive requires the dehumanisation of others; if you're not family, you simply do not matter so much. In this post-moralistic context the structure that will sustain a family is its potential deadly downfall; amorality is a structure that, itself, can lead to chaos.

It Comes At Night is then a tragedy comprised of characters that are, ultimately, almost impossible to judge; we can only observe the realities of a world precariously balanced on the knife's edge of chaos-structure and be glad we don't live in it.

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