A LONG DAY’S JOURNEY : on the short film ON THE NATURE OF DAYLIGHT by Max Richter (2018 )

ON THE NATURE OF DAYLIGHT is propulsive because it’s first and foremost a solo classical piece of composition by Max Richter, a pioneer of such richly textured scores; as is the norm, individual scores often get undermined by general listeners. But there are enough aficionados like you and I who care for the emotional intricacies of such cohesive masterpieces. This particular solo piece sounded familiar to me and after digging into few details, I found out that it had been used in the heartwrenching documentary THE RAPE OF RECY TAYLOR, highlighting the melancholy of suffering for its African – American subject through a whole lifetime, parts of which I have seen on YouTube ; it also found pride of place on the television /web series CASTLE ROCK’S famous seventh episode starring Sissy Spacek , a snippet of which I saw and hence heard the background score. That led me to this latest issue of Mr. Richter’s work where the musical piece is part of a composite whole in this eponymously titled short film starring the great Elisabeth Moss, directed by Mike Terry and edited by David Lopez- Edwards . It poignantly begins with a man holding a little bird and Moss receiving a phone call after which she takes a long walk, setting the stage for a contemplative palette of emotions.

This is an unique example for highlighting the interdependence of music and visuals, taking the form of a six and a half minutes journey, in this case . The camera assumes the position of a passive viewer and this inside – out perspective is directly proportional to the transparency of Moss’ facial expressions as she emits her inner unraveling, as raw, stark and natural as she has come to embody her silences over the years .


There is something soul stirring and inwardly haunting about the orchestral, wave like progression of the violins / strings by Richter. For the visuals, an almost unbroken, one take movement traces the silent trajectory of a lonely life, pointing towards several origin points for her walk through town, like a ghost in an urban wasteland.

It could be anything : mental health issues , loss and utter desolation, the part in the crossroads where we realize nobody is by our sides and so the act of grieving becomes utterly solitary ; like an outro from her body of work on THE HANDMAID’S TALE as June, those streets and cold environs of Toronto( also the shooting location for the series) double up as a thought provoking, wordless rendition of an individual’s struggles. The specificity of the locations mean a lot, considering it is in the backdrop, like a haze and every speck of light is on the actor imbibing the very root of her breakdown, as if her soul was crying out for catharsis.

Moss has always stood out of the league for her choices and this is a continuing paradigm of her wordless artistry on Brandi Carlile’s visual accompaniment to PARTY OF ONE last year, with a similar running time of nearly six and a half minutes. Her eyes are vessels of such pain, internalized worlds, beginning with the nonchalance of the long walk she takes from night till dawn of day, winding up with her breaking down and then projecting a defiant stance. How much should she suffer? How long can a spiritless night transpire for us? The power of suggestion is supreme hence and effectively so.



The miniaturized portal of short fiction is similarly full of narratives capturing the highs and lows of the everyday, particularly focusing on subtle manifestations of the latter, the nadirs we hit before picking up broken pieces of this world. In 2019, ON THE NATURE OF DAYLIGHT makes sense as a title as darkness of various hues has destabilized our mindfulness, which may have been tuned to some positive hints and attributes earlier . But as the times show, we are far removed from even Frost’s vision of us taking the road less traveled, for this journey is into an abyss.

ON THE NATURE OF DAYLIGHT is beautifully insular in the moment of pain it addresses for its protagonist but I believe it is universal because each of us has a weight on our shoulders and catharsis is truly need of the hour. If we get to so much as cry, that is a start. Note the attention to detail, use of gestures and the heartbreaking, open- ended conclusion. I highly recommend it to you all for its uncompromising realism and artistry.


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