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"Nightcrawler". The Dusk of Empathy.

“Nightcrawler” (2014) is what many movie critics described as a "must see" thriller of the end of this year. I went to watch it yesterday, encouraged by those reviews and also because I plainly felt like going to the cinema again. Is it a good movie? I think so. Enjoyable? I cannot say, because actually the feeling you are left with, rather than the violence content, can be quite unsettling.

Without giving too many spoilers, Nightcrawler is a movie about a guy, Lou (Jake Gyllenhaal) in his mid/late thirties, unemployed, who by chance one night is a close witness of a car crash and sniffs a career opportunity in L.A. night crime freelance journalism, mainly fatal accidents, murders, etc..  As “nightcrawlers”, there is one priority: being at the crime scene before anyone else, taking the most “graphic” shot to sell to the broadcasting news TV channels . Lou who does not seem to have any relationship/responsibility for any  living being other than a plant in his apartment and who is very likely to have an underlying mental health condition gets very quickly carried away by the night crime journalism. He discovers it may finally be something he is good at. “If it bleeds, it leads” is the motto and it becomes Lou’ s obsession, leading him to blur all lines of ethics and morality (and eventually , legality)  to the point that he is not just the observer of the crime, but the participant.


Nightcrawler (2014)

The movie is clearly a satire about the lack of morality of the TV news (somebody would say “in America” but browsing tv channels here, I think Europe is not doing much better). But what really struck me in the movie is a portrait of the total absence of empathy.

What would the world look like if there was no empathy whatsoever between humans? Quite ugly and very scary.

“Empathy” is the ability to sense other people’s emotions and to imagine what other people might be feeling or thinking. It does not mean necessarily that somebody that feels empathy will help others but it is the conditio sine qua non for a compassionate action, to understand and support each other.  But empathy is not only something that is vital for an altruistic behavior. It is what makes us happy.   There is no relationship without empathy, no joyful interaction , legitimate personal or professional success if we do not give or receive empathy.  Of course It is quite obvious from the beginning of the movie that  Lou is not mentally well, he does not know how to relate to people and most likely if we knew more about his life experiences and family background, we would find reasons for his obsessive sociopath behavior. 

But mental illness is definitely not the only reason why there is often a lack of empathy.  Hectic lives, virtual communication and interactions, just to name some, definitely do not help.

Empathy  is something we should practice everyday, whenever we have a chance. When we argue or feel irritated with partners,family, colleagues or people standing with us in a queue,  it helps to try to understand what they are feeling and what they are thinking. Being empathetic helps us dealing successfully with interpersonal conflicts, both at home and at work. But equally important,  it allows us to take some distance from ourselves by understanding how we are perceived by others. It is a never-ending learning experience which leads to adopt a new perspective  about ourselves that can ultimately enrich us. 

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