The Creators Project

Everything We Know About the Art in 'Nocturnal Animals'

Production designer Shane Valentino gave us the inside scoop on the millions of dollars' worth of artworks inside Tom Ford's acclaimed revenge drama.

by Emerson Rosenthal
Jan 11 2017, 6:40pm

When a nondescript package arrives at the palatial modern fortress of Susan Morrow (Amy Adams), it lands on a sleek black countertop upon which the LA gallerist asks offish husband, Hutton (Armie Hammer), to examine its contents. Inside the box is the titular manuscript for "Nocturnal Animals," the debut novel from her estranged ex, Edward Sheffield (Jake Gyllenhaal).

In Tom Ford's acclaimed second feature film,  Nocturnal Animals (Focus Features), Morrow's experience reading Sheffield's story takes her down dark roads both real and imagined. Her inner world mirrors the one that surrounds her: when receiving the book shakes Morrow out of her emotional sopor, a chaotic painting by Sterling Ruby, downtown LA transplant and patron saint of art world ennui, looms in the background. In one of the film's opening shots, a Jeff Koons  Balloon Dog sits companionless in the backyard of the Morrow residence, reflecting the expensive, hollow solitude of its owners.

Good filmmakers walk the tightrope between visual and verbal storytelling. Great filmmakers understand that quite a bit more can be said by using great art to speak for you. For every  Boy with Apple, created specifically to evoke an Old World feeling Wes Anderson's  Grand Budapest Hotel, and every Catherine Kubrick painting lining the vaunted walls of Stanley's  Eyes Wide Shut, there's a distraught William Turner hanging in Sam Mendes'  Skyfall ( The Fighting Temeraire), an apocalyptic Picasso in Alfonso Cuarón's  Children of Men ( Guernica), and an ecstatic Pieter Bruegel the Elder in both Lars von Trier's  Melancholia as in Tarkovsky's  Solaris ( Hunters in the Snow).

Read more on The Creators Project