Nocturne (2020) Zu Quirke's debut feature film, stars Sydney Sweeny (Euphoria), Madison Iseman (Annabelle Comes Home), and Ivan Shaw (The Cleaning Lady). This film was an installment to Welcome to the Blumhouse, an anthological horror series Blumhouse produced in collaboration with Prime video for Amazon Prime Originals.
In their last year at Lindberg Academy, boarding school for the performing arts, twin sisters and elite pianists Juliet and Vivian couldn't grow further apart if they tried. Though both extremely talented in their crafts, the difference between the two is evident, Juliet lacks the passion for it all. In her final year of high school Juliet is faced with a harsh reality, she does not have what it takes to continue on, despite giving over her life to master her craft she doesn't have what it takes to pursue it any further, unlike her twin. Juliet has a choice, to hold onto the fantasy of becoming a concert pianist, or forge a new path that would lead to a happier life. This fact is validated in a session with her mentor Dr. Cask, who asks her, "What makes Vivian the star, and you, whatever you are?" To which he answers, "She plays like the devil is at the door."
After their schoolmate, Moira a talented violinist, commits suicide, Juliet discovers her notebook; in it ominous contents that seem to speak directly to the unfolding tragedy that is becoming Juliets life. She deciphers the contents in Moira's journal, and is suddenly performing better, her best even, but with it came a series of violent hallucinations, and debilitating panic attacks. The tension between the two sisters, continues to build as Juliets jealousy grows untamed. After taking a nasty fall, Vivian learns that she may not ever play the same again, blaming her sister for setting her up to fail. A dark cloud is following Juliet, and she can't help but to blame the depictions in the journal for how recent events have unfolded. Will she overcome the pressure and prove that she in fact is a star, or will she crumble and succumb to the darkness that follows her?
I enjoyed this film, and others like it where the audience watches as the character slowly reaches toward insanity and the origins of that unraveling. What is cool about this film in particular is that it walks a fine line between, supernatural and psychological. Is it a supernatural horror, or a psychological thriller? It is no doubt that Juliet is going mad, but is the cause of that ruin due to the mysterious journal Moira left behind, or perhaps self inflicted as Juliet shoulders enormous pressure in hopes of becoming a star in a career she dedicated her life to, but falls short of. There are five depictions in the journal, 1. Invocation, 2. Assurance, 3. Triumph, 4. Consummation, 5. Purification, after confessing to Max, Vivian's boyfriend, that they all seem to be happening in real time to her, he makes the most honest statement of the film saying, "Moira suffered some pretty horrific personal tragedies. She couldn't talk about them so she drew them. Art therapy is a thing. Don't you think its most likely you saw these images, and now your projecting them into everyday life, subconsciously?"
The irony of it, is that the answer was always right in front of Juliet, but she could not, even refused to, accept the fact that she would not be the star she hoped, and that it is okay, even acceptable to find other passions in life. Before falling to her death, she has a vision of performing a perfect piece on stage, receiving a standing ovation, and even being called a star. But in reality, as she lay impaled on the school grounds, bloody and smiling in her white performance dress, her fellow students and teachers are oblivious to what will be her final moments. Instead of taking the chance to forge a new identity, she died invisible, despite all her efforts to thwart her sisters shine.
- Sunny Taylor