Night Film by Marisha Pessl

A few months back I wrote a post on how I thought writers could write their books in different and unique ways in that they could make us rely on more than just the written word or the odd picture. An example of such a work is Night Film. Night Film however, is a thriller. I am not a big fan of thrillers myself. For me they’re the book equivalent of reality shows or lower league football matches when you have no connection to either team. Something is going on but you’ll forget about them and the characters never leave any legacy on your mind.

Night Film is a thriller novel about the apparent death of Ashley Cordova, daughter of a mysterious film director. The film director’s films have a cult following and his movies are not readily available, underground clubs have been made to watch his film that have have repulsed and inspired people in a number of ways. As our main protagonist Scott McGrath investigates what has happened and gets help on the way, he gets to know more about the Cordova family.

If I’m being honest I was not a big fan of the whole story itself, I didn’t hate it. Scott McGrath the main narrator of this tale isn’t the most likeable of protagonists. We know he had a broken marriage and a daughter who sees from time to time. We also discover his attitudes shall we say, are definitely not what many on the American left would call ‘progressive’ but at the same time he is not an awful or detestable and he definitely has a drive to see things through. He also gets the help from two other characters. Nora who I found to be a bit flat and forgettable and Hopper who I didn’t like at first but would turn out to be more interesting later on.

One of the many articles that appear throughout the book.

I thought the story was too long I think some bits here and there could have been taken out and there is no sleuthing or detective work in Scott’s investigations. For example he goes to a hospital where Ashley Cordova was once at, never discovers anything and then someone out of nowhere says, go talk to this person, this person will tell them to go somewhere else. It was like going dot to dot until we could see the whole image of what we would later discover. I was also under the opinion that if the director Mr Cordova existed in our world that he would not be deemed as anything unusual in our world. His films don’t as unique as say.. James Incandenza’s films do in David Foster Wallace’s infinite Jest.

Despite being a thriller, with a plot I did not like that much including characters I will forget about, so why did I like this book as much as I did? It is if anything because of the presentation. There are articles from newspapers, the internet and magazines and cut outs that are presented to us. I liked this I though it really added to the world being described but that’s not all. Throughout the book there are certain pages that if you have the app (as of November 2020 you can find them on a website ) add more to the story. You can hear music being described, audio of interviews of characters and additional notes to consider. I am big of fan of anything like this that can help shape a story and I would love to see more people doing this. I say this of course when I have yet to do anything as such myself.

Night Film was not wholly to my taste but there was enough there to keep me interested. The fact that we read and see what the characters see and with respect to music etc hear what they hear. Imagine it other genres, fantasy that can give us the illusion of actual fantasy or historical fiction that can make is actually feel it.