The Passion of Darkly Noon
directed by Philip Ridley
starring Brendan Fraser, Ashley Judd, Viggo Mortensen
Early on The Passion of Darkly Noon appears to be a pretty standard love triangle thriller between a sweat-glistened, honey blonde, Callie (Ashley Judd), her mute coffin maker boyfriend, Clay (Viggo Mortenson), and a stuttering cultist with the unlikely name of Darkly Moon (Brendan Fraser}. Standard that is until the giant shoe arrives.
Darkly Noon is found dehydrated wandering in the forest and is taken to the remote home of Callie and Clay to recuperate. Callie nurses Darkly back to health while waiting on her boyfriend Clay to return. Darkly reveals that he is a child of religious extremists who “live by the bible”. His name was chosen by sticking a pin in a bible which landed on 1 Corinthians; Chapter 13 “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, darkly, but then face to face.” The passage explains much about his character with little exposition.
As Darkly stays on he clearly disapproves of Callie and her lifestyle but still becomes rapidly infatuated with her. The situation gets more complex and intense when Clay returns, escalating Darkly’s desire for Callie, his jealousy of Clay, and how this tests the tenets of his faith which also includes mortification of the flesh.
When Darkly Noon spies a giant silver shoe floating in the lake, things take a dark and increasingly surreal turn. He meets up with Clay’s mother Roxy, Grace Zabriskie (Twin Peaks), who lives in an Airstream trailer in the words and informs Darkly that Callie is a witch. This revelation makes perfect sense in Darkly’s broken world view, sending him into a dangerous downward spiral until he becomes god’s instrument for vengeance resulting in a bloody, fiery, and ultimately tragic, climax. The denouement featuring lost circus performers and a repeated proverb about getting lost in the woods offers explanations for the events that raise far more questions than it answers.
The video presentation of The Passion of Darkly Noon is tremendous. The film is gorgeous, but tricky as the entire film is incredibly high contrast with blown out highlights and a deep golden yellow palette to the daylight scenes that initially look in error but soon becomes evident it is an artful choice that adds to the physical and metaphorical heat of the film.
Arrow Video has assembled a solid batch of extras to augment the viewing of The Passion of Darkly Noon including a director’s commentary, interviews with the film’s composer, Nick BicÃ¢t, and editor, Les Healey, as well as a short documentary on Philip Ridley and more.
Eyes of Fire features cinematographer John de Borman discussing his work and collaboration with director Philip Ridley which included some non-traditional approaches including choosing shooting locations based on how the music composed for the movie sounded in various spots. He also discusses some of the renegade nature of the shoot including the danger of shooting on sets engulfed in barely contained fire for the climax of the film.
After decades in exile, Philip Ridley’s haunting and surreal film is getting a second chance at finding an audience. It is a film that feels much more at home with today’s art house horror than it did in the mid-‘90s.