‘The Nightingale’ Director Jennifer Kent Says Empathy is ‘Fast Disappearing’ (Video)

“It’s something we need, or we won’t survive,” “The Babadook” director says at Sundance 2019

The latest film “The Nightingale” from Jennifer Kent, the Australian director who broke out with the horror film “The Babadook,” is a brutal, violent film, but also one that encourages a feeling of understanding for different cultures and those who have experienced loss.

Aisling Franciosi plays Clare, an Irish convict sent to one of the worst penal colonies in Australia in the 1820s. After her family is horrifically attacked, she seeks revenge against a British officer that witnessed it, enlisting the help of a native aboriginal in Tasmania. Franciosi studied not just the history of convicts in Australia, but also researched PTSD, violence against women and how people deal with trauma.

“I’ve said this a million times, but it’s so rare to read a script where I actually feel like I have an emotional response to it, and I felt it in the first 10 pages,” Franciosi told TheWrap’s Steve Pond at the Sundance Film Festival. “It gave me such a huge sense of responsibility. You couldn’t possibly not have a massive well of empathy for the character of Clare.”

“Aisling used a beautiful word there, empathy, which in our modern world is fast disappearing. It’s very disturbing to me,” Kent added. “It’s a quality to me that’s not an optional extra anymore with humans. It’s something we need, or we won’t survive.”

Kent talked about how she was moved by the parallels between Irish and aboriginal cultures, incorporating a lot of traditional, native music into the film. She says the way in which all cultures are more alike than different is one of the major themes of “The Nightingale.”

“I was really wanting to tell a story of love in a dark time and ask the question, how do we love still as human beings. It’s easy to love when everything is going well, very easy. But how do we do that when things are really tough,” Kent said. “As humans we want, if there’s pain, we want to inflict it on others. It’s a natural desire to get rid of it and put it onto others. But I don’t feel good about that ultimately. I don’t think it provides much relief. So I wanted to dig in and find out what happens in the playing out of that, but also what happens in the aftermath.”

“The Nightingale” was acquired by IFC Films after premiering at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 25. Watch the video of Kent and Franciosi above.

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