This​ article focuses primarily on Nocturnal Animals, arguing that like movies such as The Blue Angel and MNocturnal Animals gives creative expression to our political ills — in this case, obscene economic inequality — without being able to visualize solutions for them. Rather, it offers us a release from its graphic expression of the haves and the have-nots by asking us to confuse misogyny with class justice.

In From Caligari to Hitler, Siegfried Kracauer famously evaluated Weimar cinema for its portrayal of political and social disarray. Looking not at propaganda pieces like Der Ewige Jude (The Eternal Jew, Fritz Hippler 1940) and Jud Suss (Veit Harlan 1940) but at acclaimed earlier films like Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel, Josef Von Strenberg 1930) and M (Fritz Lang 1931), Kracauer argued that Weimar culture was creative enough to dramatise its collective ills but not creative enough to imagine solutions for them. When the “imagination [of Weimar Germany] identified freedom from tyranny not so much with the prospect of true freedom as with the dissolution of any society,” the rise of the Nazis seemed inevitable, he wrote in an early draft of the book. Would Kracauer find in contemporary American films a paralysis similar to that afflicting Weimar cinema?

Think-pieces, such as Jochen Bittner’s “Is This the West Weimar’s Moment?”1, suggest that Weimar Germany with its abundance of cynicism and scarcity of solutions is an apt analogy for the American Republic in the Trump era. Contempt for “the system” is rampant, the social contract appears broken, and headlines declare, “We’re on the Brink of an Authoritarian Crisis”2. Class resentment finds release in the usual ways – intolerance of minorities and immigrants – but promising ideas for turning the nation around are lacking.

In the compositions of the German expressionists, Kracauer saw hieroglyphs of the Republic’s increasing tensions. Looking “not so much [at] the statistically measurable popularity of films as [at] the popularity of their pictorial and narrative motifs,” Kracauer found that “in many German films the predominance of mute objects symbolize[d] the ascendancy of irrational powers” 3. He detailed how “scores of inanimate objects surround the murderer” Hans Beckert (Peter Lorre) in Fritz Lang’s M:

Standing before a cutlery shop, [Beckert] is photographed in such a way that his face appears within a rhomboid reflection of sparkling knives. Sitting on a cafe terrace behind an ivy-covered trellis, with only his cheeks gleaming through the foliage, he suggests a beast of prey lurking in the jungle. Finally, trapped in the lumber room, he is hardly distinguishable from the tangled debris in which he tries to evade his captors.

Kracauer’s take on busy space signaling irrational forces might send us looking for similar density in twenty-first century films but we would come up empty-handed. Emptiness is more of a persistent pictorial motif than is clutter in contemporary cinema.


M. Fritz Lang, 1931

Think of the resurgent popularity of the empty landscapes of the Western in the West Texas setting of recent films. Wide-lens views of unforgiving landscapes are the backdrop for the doomed Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) in No Country for Old Men (Coen Brothers, 2007). Vast plains stretch out in all directions around bank robber Toby Howard (Chris Pine) in Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie 2016). The violence in these films do not stem from deranged minds but from the aspirations of a loving husband, on the one hand, and a loving father, on the other, and the impoverished environments illustrate how little the men have with which to aspire. Even the domestic spaces of these characters are not cramped. Despite Carla Jean’s easy access to discount Walmart merchandise, no discarded electronics disorder Llewelyn and Carla Jean’s trailer, for example. The dominant composition in their trailer is rather one in which a succession of characters sit and stare across the room into a television set. A kind of blankness results when we watch them look at the screen, whether they are watching something or seeing themselves mirrored back. As far as the eye can see, nothing indicates that anyone can get from where they are to anywhere else. As in the Westerns of the 40s and 50s, the relentless, uncivilised landscapes vibrate with moral tension but the sense of direction is lost. Nobody braves Native territory to emerge with an abducted white girl or crosses dangerous terrain in a stagecoach; instead, they run in mazes to escape sociopaths or rob banks so that they can continue to occupy land they’ve occupied for years.

Unlike these films, Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals (2016) asks us to see an equivalent, though much more expensive, emptiness in the wealthiest environment as in the poorest – as if to say that economic inequality itself is what is hollowing America out. In the funhouse mirror of Nocturnal Animals, the wide-open, empty spaces of West Texas reflect the wide-open, empty spaces characterising the aesthetic of the one percent in Los Angeles. Nocturnal Animals follows two stories and, remarkably, the one set among sumptuous wealth is the real one while the one set among the dirt poor is fiction. Susan Morrow (Amy Adams) owns an art gallery in Los Angeles and is unhappily married to someone in finance (Armie Hammer). She presides over a large staff at her gallery and an equally large service staff at home. Nineteen years ago, however, she was an art history student married to a struggling writer named Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal) but she divorced Edward and aborted their pregnancy. He has never forgiven her. The plot begins with Susan’s receipt of his new novel and then pivots between her pristine and sterile home and the bloody and anarchic story world of Edward’s novel in which West Texas thugs assault a middle-class family, murdering the wife and daughter and leaving the husband/father Tony (also Jake Gyllenhaal) to grieve and seek revenge. A typical sequence might start in Susan’s enormous master bedroom as she reclines with the manuscript and then cut to a wooden shack as we see what Susan pictures as she reads. Or it might begin with Susan in her immaculate spa-like bathtub and switch to a dingy shower in a cheap roadside motel where the bereaved Tony sobs. Neither diegetically nor non-diegetically does the movie explicitly address this juxtaposition of rich and poor space but it generates a kind of baffled astonishment at the extremes of American inequality. Astonishment demands answers but the movie has no theory about, or remedy for, class inequality so the film’s – and its spectators’- astonishment curdles into contempt. What is it exactly that the elite contribute to society?, we begin to wonder as we watch Susan Morrow wander through a well-appointed life.

In one of his 1968 debates with William F. Buckley Jr., Gore Vidal told Buckley: “In the United States 5% of the population have 20% of the income and the bottom 20% have 5% of the income.” A few seconds later, he said, “You are going to have a revolution if you don’t give the people the things they want. Now, I’m putting it to your own self-interest, they are going to come and take it away from you” (Morgan Neville & Robert Gordon Best of Enemies 2015). Vidal assumed his statistics were revelatory. What is startling about them now is recognizing how much worse already bad numbers have become. Today, the top 1% control 20% of the wealth yet such revelations still don’t spell revolution. The reasons the late twentieth century did not witness revolution despite accelerating inequality are many and complex but not difficult to name. For one thing, as intangible goods (higher education, health insurance) were becoming exponentially more expensive, commodities were becoming cheaper and credit was expanding so people were getting at least some of the things they wanted without having to come and take them away from William F. Buckley Jr. For another, the Cold War continued until 1989 and, with it, the suspicion that inequality might be the necessary price paid for freedom. (“Freedom breeds inequality,” Buckley tells Vidal at one point.) Now, though, we might ask, what purpose do the rich serve?

In the West Texas scenes, outside space dominates because buildings are flimsy or bleakly nondescript while in the scenes shot in Los Angeles, wealth advertises its power by enclosing vast swathes of space in glass and steel, but in both the outsized space telegraphs the diminishment of the human. In one, people are insignificant because nature’s indifference can be survived at best but never mastered. In the other, despite presumably conquering time and space, the people in LA are insignificant because they hover in noir-lit glass houses or float in spaceship-like bubbles doing nothing of value.

Nocturnal Animals
In both cases, the irrationality threatening society is not expressed by the accumulation of “mute objects” but by a boundlessness suggesting the absence of any real refuge. If home is a polluted, constricted space in Weimar cinema, then it is a vacuum in contemporary American film. Home as such has disappeared and the characters spin their wheels—the LA highways, as shown in the early establishing shots of Nocturnal Animals, loop back on themselves in futile circles while the West Texas highways continue indefinitely through unchanging vistas.

“During the postwar most Germans eagerly tended to withdraw from a harsh outer world into the intangible realm of the soul,” Kracauer wrote. In Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), the plot focused on the condemnation of an authority figure for grotesque crimes evaporates into the hallucinations of an insane asylum inmate. “The film,” Kracauer said, “reflects this double aspect of German life (desire for revolution, desire for conformity) by coupling a reality in which Caligari’s authority triumphs with a hallucination in which the same authority is overthrown”4. At the film’s end, authority and the status quo reemerge but only after the audience enjoyed the fantasy of their subversion. In Nocturnal Animals, too, grotesque crimes of rape and murder are indulged but sanitised as the fictional story within the real story – that is, as the novel written by the grudge-holding ex-husband. In the Weimar film, the fantasy is that the establishment will be exposed as madmen while in the American film, the fantasy is that a cosmopolitan elite that ignores or even finds perverse pleasure in the pain of an underclass will get its come-uppance.

The revenge of the West Texas underclass – that is, the novel’s plot in which angry youth randomly assault innocent women they deem “uppity” – would not work in Nocturnal Animals if it were a simple story of poor men destroying a middle-class family. Here, the goal is to channel the libidinal energy generated by the audience’s reaction to the violence inflicted on the fictional mother and daughter into a more satisfying expression of revenge on the extremely rich woman in the “real” story. The insults to the female body exist in the realm of the speculative or hypothetical – the “what if” of fiction. When we witness three young men harassing a family and then abducting the wife and daughter, we are watching Edward Sheffield’s novel as Susan pictures it while reading. Depressed, middle-aged, and in a failing marriage, Susan falls harder for Edward every time she finishes another chapter of his book. When she emails him to congratulate him and when we watch her tie the strings of a cleavage-revealing blouse and take off her wedding ring before heading to the restaurant to see him for the first time in nineteen years, we are not surprised. When Edward stands her up, leaving her quietly devastated and emotionally exposed, we also are not surprised. The novel’s West Texas tale of class revenge has been the precursor to the film’s real revenge story – a man humiliating a wealthy woman for having chosen money (the finance-capitalist current husband) over love (the struggling artist first husband). The insults to the female bodies are, retroactively, graphic stand-ins for what amounts to an insult to a fragile female psyche.

Set out schematically, the weakness of the narrative is apparent – a film that makes its most arresting mark on us through the visual symmetry and yet profound disparity of the story worlds portrayed (West Texas poverty, LA wealth) “solves” the real but implicit crime of grotesque inequality by scapegoating female greed. That the film manages to be genuinely satisfying on some level, however, is evidenced by its nine BAFTA nominations. We are not reluctant to watch a beautiful rich woman taken down. What is unbearable is the idea that these radically different American realities of poverty and wealth might continue without any consequences for anyone. We enjoy a middle-aged woman’s humiliation because the implication is that West Texas poverty has somehow punctured the unsustainable bubble of a smug and oblivious coastal elite.

It might be argued that the character of Susan Morrow is not herself smug but, however sympathetically portrayed at moments, the character never recovers from the movie’s opening sequence in which she moves sleekly through her gallery’s exhibition party showcasing obese women dancing naked. The women are heavily made up, waving patriotic paraphernalia, and wearing plastic white boots – caricatures of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, perhaps. They are meant to lampoon America’s gluttony and superficiality but the irony is not lost on the film’s audience. We see the casual cruelty of people using other people’s bodies for shock value in a way that excludes the humans to whom those bodies belong from the joke – some of whose bodies, surely not incidentally, bear heavy scars. If our queasiness with the scene were to be converted into words, they might form the following questions: why do thin women wear Tom Ford designs and sip white wine while fat women are paraded like circus animals? What accident of birth or marriage is responsible for the vast differences between these females of the same species? Our disaffection with Susan is established by these early images, particularly one in which one of the women we’ve just seen dancing is laid out like a corpse. Susan exercises the rights of gallery ownership to perch on that block – surely, none of the patrons would sit on the art – and gaze into the middle distance, indifferent to the woman behind her.

Nocturnal Animals
The obviously privileged exploit the presumably disenfranchised and get away with calling what they’re doing “art.” There is certainly a way in which Tom Ford might be accused of doing the same thing with Nocturnal Animals as a whole. The question the spectator has to ask herself is: Do I experience the final humiliation of the woman at the top of the economic food chain as the implicit avenging of the indignities inflicted on those lower down or do I find all of the manifest and subtle violence in the film variations of the same aestheticisation of misogyny? In a review in The Guardian entitled “I’m So Glad to Spoil This Film for You,” Victoria Coren Mitchell commented on the way violence is transmuted into art in the film. Referring to the murdered mother and daughter in Edward’s novel, she says:

The corpses look beautiful. Deliberately beautiful. Titianesque. They are draped elegantly on a sort of couch. The blood is ever so pretty on the bums. Director Tom Ford, a fashion designer by day and a filmmaker with a gorgeous aesthetic touch, can make anything beautiful – and he really does it with these cadavers. The whole image could be hung in an art gallery, if it weren’t for the risk of flies5.

Coren Mitchell is right to point out the radical unrealism of beautiful corpses and she is right to compare this moment with the opening ones in which live women are, essentially, hung in an art gallery as they dance naked:

The film opens with an extended sequence of large women (perhaps size 20 or 30) dancing naked on podiums. These are not rendered beautiful. They are clearly intended to be grotesque, nightmarish. Because you know what’s hideous? Fat women! And you know what’s beautiful? Dead women! On and on the dancing goes; we really get to have a good old goggle at the undulating folds of flesh. This is Ford’s David Lynch moment, but, in the darkest room of Tom Ford’s psyche, you don’t get dwarves speaking backwards, you get fat women dancing. Yeurggghhhhh, look at their rubbery tummies, their flabby thighs! Make it stop!

Coren Mitchell found it telling that the film critics who rave about Nocturnal Animals tend to be men, singling out Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw in particular. Bradshaw wrote in response:

My colleague Victoria Coren Mitchell makes it entirely clear that in her view its portrayal of women is repulsive – and misogynist. I don’t agree. I argue that it is – at least partly – a movie about male violence, in both the obvious sense and the more insidious sense of an embittered ex-husband taking revenge on a successful woman . . . Coren Mitchell professes herself astonished that this movie gets top marks from me ‘right up there with Midnight Cowboy or Some Like It Hot.’ Well, at the risk of getting bogged down in the issue of false comparison or false opposition … the two films I would mention are Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom or Tod Browning’s Freaks. Films with the darkest, strangest, most horrifying and incorrect scenes6.

If the film encouraged the audience to be critical of Edward Sheffield (the “embittered ex-husband”), Bradshaw might be able to carry his point that the movie is a kind of critique of male violence. In no way does the movie ask us to distance ourselves from Edward, however. We only see him in flashbacks, as Susan recalls events from their past, and he is pitifully sympathetic in these memories – hoping to be understood by her as an artist, begging her not to throw away their love. For most of the film, we in fact conflate him with the protagonist of his novel Tony, the man whose wife and daughter are murdered. And, naturally, he is extraordinarily sympathetic in these scenes, given that he is a victim himself.

Nocturnal Animals
Bradshaw is right, though, to compare Nocturnal Animals to Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks. Nocturnal Animals shares with Freaks a fascination with the display of the disfigured as well as a narrative that punishes a beautiful woman for her attraction to men with money. And Ford himself is surely right to swap out Browning’s (and Lynch’s) dwarves for obese women. Fat is recognised to be, at least in part, a class issue, since numerous studies have shown that children in low-income families are twice as likely to be overweight than children from high-income families. And if fat is a class issue, then now more than ever class itself is an accident of birth. “We didn’t lie to you, folks,” says the ringmaster in Freaks to the audience assembled for the show; “We told you we had living, breathing monstrosities. You laugh at them, shudder at them. But for an accident of birth you might be as they are.” In an Atlantic article entitled “America is even less socially mobile than previously thought,” Joe Pinsker writes, “The amount of money one makes can be roughly predicted by how much money one’s parents made, and that only gets truer as one moves along the earnings spectrum.”7 If it is a stretch to suggest that Nocturnal Animals is a critique of male violence, is it fair to say that it is an oblique critique, or at least expression, of American immobility and the disfiguring effects of extreme inequality?

Philosopher Jeremy Waldron worries that extreme inequality is creating a situation in which the rich and the poor may come to look as if they belong to different species. “The fact of economic inequality may come to be written in the visible lives of those who are most deprived,” he writes in One Another’s Equals: The Basis of Human Equality;  “It may look not only as though they are not being treated as equals but as though they are not the equals of other prosperous members of society”8. Maintaining an actual degree of economic equality might be necessary, he speculates, if we intend to maintain the ideal of formal equality (equal worth and equal dignity). The ideal of formal equality is enshrined in America primarily in the judicial system and the rule of law: we are all equal before the law; we are all innocent until proven guilty. Deprivation threatens to turn people into freaks in the eyes of the elite and this, in turn, diminishes society’s commitment to the rule of law by undermining the ideal of basic equality. Roughly fifty years since the Vidal-Buckley debates, inequality has grown so extreme that it is fair to say that the rule of law is deeply compromised. Trump recently told an audience that the police should feel free to “rough up” detainees because they are “animals.” The International Association of Chiefs of Police had to remind Americans of an ideal that their President mocks: “Law enforcement officers are trained to treat individuals, whether they are a complainant, suspect, or defendant, with dignity and respect,” the Association said in response; “This is the bedrock principle behind the concepts of procedural justice and police legitimacy9.”

When the system ensures that economic class reproduces itself, the only way to escape poverty is by breaking the rules. Numerous films today from dramas like Hell or High Water to comedies like The House (Andrew J. Cohen 2107), in which middle-class parents run an illegal casino to pay their daughter’s college tuition, affirm Americans’ sense that the system is no longer just and must be defied to be survived. In Nocturnal Animals, rule of law is flouted after the murderers in Edward’s novel go free because of a lack of evidence. Since, contrary to how crime unfolds in real life, in this case the spectators know who the criminals are because we’ve been privy to the events themselves, we make no objection when the detective Bobby Andes (Michael Shannon) decides that he and Tony will ignore protocol and avenge the murder of Tony’s wife and daughter themselves. “Rights, rights, rights,” Andes says sarcastically when one of the youth protests and one can almost hear the theater audience cheer. Justice has to be taken into individual’s hands because institutions are unable to deliver it. (It is interesting to note here Kracauer’s observation that a kind of “nihilist gospel” was preached in Weimar cinema, because it “poured balm on the wounds of innumerable Germans who, because of the humiliating defeat of the fatherland, refused any longer to acknowledge history as an instrument of justice or providence.”)

Of course, taking the law into your own hands because it has failed you or breaking the law to beat a rigged system does nothing to repair the fractured republic. Such actions exempt an individual or two from a status quo that continues to reign for others. They do not constitute the organised, collective action that once seemed imaginable. “Their code is a law unto themselves,” warns the ringmaster in Freaks; “Offend one [freak] and you offend them all.” “They are going to come and take it away from you,” says Vidal to Buckley in 1968. Where are the films expressing this now? In Miguel Arteta’s Beatriz at Dinner (2017), a movie explicitly critiquing economic inequality, the hard-working immigrant Beatriz (Salma Hayek) tells the capitalist tycoon Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), “It’s coming for you.” “It’s coming” is not “they’re coming” and it is not at all clear what Beatriz has in mind other than perhaps the runaway environmental devastation that may eventually overwhelm even the most protected of gated communities. Beatriz at Dinner dramatises America’s diseased state in many of the same ways the other movies do (the wide vistas of California landscape in which the individual seems minute, the immaculate and spacious non-home of the very rich, the deadlocked highways suggesting immobility) but, unlike them, it does not offer its audience either the fantasy of the individual’s triumph or a scapegoat upon which to vent our frustrations. Like them, though, it also offers no viable hope for our collective future.

The premise of the movie is that a woman passionate about social justice attends a small dinner party with a man whose predatory practices have displaced locals in various regions, harmed workers, and ruined the environment. She finds herself in intimate conversation, in other words, with the kind of mogul she would protest from afar in the past. “I have opinions and because I have money, people listen,” Doug says to Beatriz. Beatriz has opinions, too, but no money. After voicing her opinions, and offending the well-heeled group, she is essentially escorted from the house. She circles back, though, and briefly we are made to believe that she takes revenge on behalf of the disenfranchised. We see her stab Doug in the neck with a letter opener but then, breaking its largely realist aesthetic, the film reveals that what we’ve just seen is a fantasy sequence while in reality Beatriz has abandoned revenge as futile. We are to assume that she has concluded that one woman killing one man will not change a system in which it is legal for men like Doug to do what they do (an earlier scene shows Beatriz googling Doug to discover that he’d been repeatedly – outrageously – cleared by courts of wrongdoing).

Beatriz at Dinner, Miguel Arteta 2017

Beatriz at Dinner is not unlike the Weimar films Kracauer discussed, films that gave Germans the fantasy of subversion in the form of a story within a story. But rather than being returned to the status quo after the murderous fantasy is indulged, the movie takes us straight from the mirage of revenge to despair at a stubbornly blocked future. Abandoning hope, Beatriz drowns herself in the ocean but, here, the filmmakers make a telling decision. Instead of delivering a sinking woman on her way to being a seaweed-strewn corpse, they whisk us into Beatriz’s last moments of consciousness as she pictures the lost world of her childhood – a tranquil lake in Mexico. We end, in other words, in a lovely hallucination. Interestingly, there is nothing cathartic or even bittersweet about this – at least for this viewer. If anything, it is aggravating. By denying us the reward of a Cristian Mungiu or a Cristi Puiu film – that is, the virtuous feeling that we have bravely looked reality in its ugly eye – the movie somehow more effectively rubs our noses in our collective failure of political imagination. Beatriz’s nostalgic escape into a past world that no longer exists reminds us of our own inability to imagine a way forward. “I feel old and fat and tired,” Beatriz says to a friend she calls on her cellphone during the evening. Beatriz is not old – she’s middle-aged – and she’s not fat, though the camera spends a great deal of time following her from behind so we see her sturdy legs and the way her bottom stretches her practical slacks, as if we were indeed immersed in the long takes of the Romanian New Wave. She is tired, though. She is America itself here – feeling old and fat and helpless to reverse what feels like inexorable decline.

If directionless space is contemporary cinema’s pictorial motif for a society warped by inequality, is the depressed middle-aged woman its symbol of America’s inability to envision a viable future? Has the depressed middle-aged woman replaced Weimar’s depressed middle-aged man? Consider Josef Von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel. Critics have often commented on the way The Blue Angel alternates between the surreally dreamlike and the sordidly real – a description that fits Ford’s movie, too. Both movies satisfy an audience’s desire to see the once mighty fallen and social distinctions that seemed immutable – middle-class respectability versus working-class exhibitionism, in the case of The Blue Angel – overturned. As he did with M and other films of the period, Kracauer found the “over-stuffed” nature of the space significant. Commenting on how Professor Rath (Emil Jannings) “fights his way to the dressing room through a maze of fishing nets,” Kracauer argued that “the persistent interference of mute objects reveals the whole milieu as a scene of loosened instincts”10. To return to Nocturnal Animals, how are we to interpret the lack of “interference” in Nocturnal Animals? The rampaging youth encounter no obstacles to slow them down as they cruelly play with the fictional family; even that ubiquitous object of modernity, the cell phone, can’t help the family since the rural wasteland lacks cellular service. Similarly, in the highly connected spheres of the rich, Susan drifts through her highly curated world, encountering nothing and nobody to distract her from her melancholy self. The clutter in the German expressionist films signals sexual frustration and sexual abandon while the minimalist aesthetic of Nocturnal Animals indicates a society without emotional attachments, one with nowhere to direct its libidinal energies and no goal in service to which they could be sublimated.

Edward Sheffield is a schoolteacher like Professor Rath but it is Susan Morrow in her humiliation who most obviously resembles Rath. While Rath has become the bear in a bear-baiting act by the end of The Blue Angel, Susan is left immaculately intact but it is the very fact that she’s unravaged that makes her an object of spectacular pity. After having groomed herself into an expensive object of desire, she has rejection thrown in her face in the film’s final scene as she waits forlornly and futilely for Edward at an expansive glass-walled restaurant. Kracauer identified “a blend of cynicism and melodramatic sentimentality” in Weimar cinema11 and Nocturnal Animals zooms out to show Susan marooned at a central table, as if on display like the obese women at the exhibition, and then closes by zooming in on her sad eyes as diegetic sounds are drowned out by a dramatic orchestral score. Yet Edward also resembles Rath, though it might take a little work on our part to see the similarity. “Instead of becoming an adult,” Kracauer wrote about The Blue Angel character, Rath “engages in a process of retrogression effected with ostentatious self-pity”12. Edward’s elaborate revenge, from the novel in which he features as the grievously bereaved to his grand finale in which he cruelly stands Susan up, smacks of self-pity and a kind of schoolboy sadism. “The Blue Angel poses anew the problem of German immaturity,” Kracauer wrote 13. Might something similar be said of Tom Ford’s film? That Nocturnal Animals poses anew the problem of American immaturity?

This article has been peer reviewed.


  1. Jochen Bittner New York Times, May 31, 2016 https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/31/opinion/is-this-the-wests-weimar-moment.html
  2. Brian Beutler, The New Republic July 21, 2017 https://newrepublic.com/article/143984/were-brink-authoritarian-crisis
  3. Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological Study of the German Film (NewYork: Noonday Press, 1959) p.221
  4. Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological Study of the German Film (NewYork: Noonday Press, 1959) p.67
  5. Victoria Coren Mitchell “I’m So Glad To Spoil This Film For You.” The Guardian January 22 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/22/nocturnal-animal-film-rape-murder-repulsive
  6. Peter Bradshaw, “Nocturnal Animals Snub is Failure of Nerve as La La Land Steamrolls Oscars.” The Guardian January 24 2107 https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2017/jan/24/oscars-nocturnal-animals-snub-is-failure-of-nerve-la-la-land-steamrolls
  7. Joe Pinsker, “America is even less socially mobile than previously thought.” The Atlantic July 23 2105 https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/07/america-social-mobility-parents-income/399311/
  8. Jeremy Waldron, One Another’s Equals: The Basis of Human Equality (Cambridge, Harvard UP 2017).38
  9. Julie Manchester The Hill July 28, 2017 http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/344435-police-group-to-trump-officers-will-treat-suspects-with-dignity
  10. Siegfried Kracauer, From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological Study of the German Film (NewYork: Noonday Press, 1959) 217
  11. Ibid p. 52
  12. Ibid p. 218
  13. Ibid