The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995) – Film Review
Director: Philip Ridley
Cast: Brendan Fraser, Ashley Judd, Viggo Mortensen
by Sarah Morgan
Some people are just too talented. Take Philip Ridley, for instance. Born in East London in 1964, he started out as an artist, a contemporary of the YBAs (Young British Artists).
He’s a celebrated children’s author and has written adult fiction too. His plays have been widely acclaimed and the release of a new one is regarded as a major event in the theatrical world. Ridley is also a poet, photographer and performance artist, although it’s perhaps for his contribution to film that he is best known.
He wrote the screenplay for The Krays, starring Spandau Ballet’s Kemp brothers, before directing his own scripts; his trilogy of horror films – The Reflecting Skin, The Passion of Darkly Noon and Heartless – are hugely original, visually arresting and have a cult following.
“Desires literally drive him mad”
Ridley now claims to have ‘finished’ with film, which is a loss, but his small body of work remains as fresh and original as ever. Of the three movies The Passion of Darkly Noon is perhaps the most famous thanks to its trio of Hollywood stars – Viggo Mortensen has a supporting role, while Ashley Judd and Brendan Fraser, then at the height of their fame, play the leads.
Fraser portrays the title character, who is found lying in the road before being taken to the home of Callie (Judd) to recover. She learns that Darkly (named after the Biblical quote, “Now we see through a glass, darkly…”) has spent his entire life as a member of a conservative religious cult that came to an abrupt end in a violent confrontation between its members and townsfolk living nearby. Darkly’s parents were killed in the chaos.
As he becomes increasingly obsessed with Callie, Darkly finds his burgeoning sexual feelings at odds with the teachings of his church. His desires literally drive him mad, leading to a violent confrontation with the woman he loves and Clay, her mute boyfriend.
“Innocence and religious mania”
Initially, we’re led to believe that the ‘passion’ of the title is Darkly’s attraction to Callie, and to a certain extent it is, but Ridley also draws on Christ’s Passion for inspiration – our first good look at the character comes when he is carried, while lying in the form of a crucifix, to Callie’s house in the trailer of a pickup truck.
Fraser brilliantly combines Darkly’s innocence and religious mania in an unforgettable performance that reminds viewers of what a good actor he can be when working with a decent script. Judd is fine too, while Mortensen is impressive as Clay, communicating using only clicks, whistles and taps. Watch out for a scene-stealing Grace Zabriskie as caravan-dweller Roxy, who fans the flames of Darkly’s mania.
High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentation
Original 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
New audio commentary by writer/director Philip Ridley
Isolated score track in lossless stereo, including never-before-heard extended and unused cues, and the two songs from the film
Sharp Cuts, a newly filmed interview with editor Leslie Healey
Forest Songs, a newly filmed interview with composer Nick Bicât
Dreaming Darkly, an archive featurette from 2015 featuring interviews with Ridley, Bicât and star Viggo Mortensen
Previously unreleased demos of the music score, written and performed by Bicât before filming started
Reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork
The Passion of Darkly Noon is released on Blu-ray by MVD