Nightmare Alley

Nightmare Alley ★★★★½


Nightmare Alley is a rise-and-fall tale that glistens with darkness. It is about the descent of man, the inevitable collapse that follows any success. Early on we see broken men, as freaks and alcoholics. This is a film about how people can become those men. The film's postwar fatalism is not particularly pleasant, but its strength comes from the way it lays down omens of misfortune and create only a precarious illusion of success for the characters. It's a compelling film because of this perversity. The style is so moody and atmospheric, greatly helped by the fact that so much is set at a carnival. The lead is a sleazy con artist with great ambitions. He tells people what they want to hear and has very good intuition. Part of the film is about the superstitious and unexplained, such as the tarot cards in the film which predict events. However it's also a movie about false prophets, how the intelligent and observant can make themselves seem supernaturally powerful. It all leads to a disturbed ending, that completes the film's cycle and shows a man who has entirely lost who he is. Nightmare Alley is a brilliantly dark work that captures a grim cycle of life in a fascinating way, making for something very harsh and yet very intriguing.

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