Nightcrawler: A Movie About Freedom and Its Limits

Lou Bloom is a hustler who dreams of creating a successful business. One day, by chance, he finds one, but it means he has to violate many ethical principles. In fact, Nightcrawler is a disturbing story that deals with the debate on the limits of civic freedom.
Nightcrawler: A Movie About Freedom and Its Limits

Last update: 13 October, 2022

Nightcrawler tells us that our fundamental rights shouldn’t be mixed with empty concepts. Freedom isn’t a nice word for frivolity, but for individual and social responsibility. It’s everyone’s responsibility to be vigilant so that our fundamental rights aren’t violated. However, we must always bear in mind that being free sometimes means controlling ourselves. This allows us to be able to make better choices at a later date.

That said, we tend to understand freedom as a fundamental right. We base it on our natural ability to think and act according to our own will and to be responsible for our actions. Freedom can refer to the faculty and the right to profess any religion; to express ourselves, defend and propagate our own opinions, and follow one sexual tendency or another with no limitations other than respect for the freedom of others.

Nightcrawler: an absorbing thriller

In analyzing Nightcrawler, we evaluate the limits between the power of institutions and the exercise of freedom of the individuals in them. It’s interesting to see how unlimited practice by certain individuals or institutions can have extremely negative consequences for society as a whole.

Dan Gilroy’s thriller, Nightcrawler is about a lonely man named Lou Bloom who wants money and power. His life consists of wandering around at night collecting junk and committing various burglaries.

One night, while Lou is driving home, he witnesses a traffic accident. An ambulance appears, as well as a camera team who films the scene. When they finish filming, they tell Lou how easy it is to get paid for shooting the most morbid scenes. That’s when Lou Bloom, a callous anti-hero, who’s as sociable as Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, sees his golden opportunity. He’s about to rise up and become the entrepreneur he’s always dreamed of.

He starts to become an amateur videographer. He uses his eye and his daring to create a successful small business, deceiving, manipulating, and exploiting all who stand in his way.

Nightcrawler is a movie about how sociopaths are able to cross many lines when their own interests are at stake. It’s a media satire in the style of Network and To Die For, bearing the catchphrase “If it bleeds, it leads”.

Freedom, is this it?

Democratic systems guarantee certain individual freedoms, such as freedom of expression and information. However, with freedom comes responsibility. Nightcrawler proposes a reflection on the consequences of the perverse use of the media. Furthermore, how there are people capable of exploiting it for their own personal benefit.

A sociopath who legitimizes himself in the tv world

The word nightcrawler refers to an individual who’s socially active at night. This term perfectly defines young Lou. He’s an apparently courteous man, with a superficial charm and is well-adapted to the different social situations in which he finds himself. In fact, Lou is a product of today’s most extreme capitalist society, a socioeconomic model that somehow fosters his sociopathic behavior.

Although he didn’t receive a conventional education, he’s absorbed all kinds of pseudo-philosophical precepts and self-help techniques. These exhort him to undertake and persevere until he achieves success at any cost.

However, what makes Lou fearsome and dangerous isn’t his unruly and unrestrained behavior. It’s the fact that it’s continually reinforced by his success at work. In fact, by pushing his morbid filming techniques to the limit, Lou rises from a pathetic night owl to a successful businessman.

The movie is an inspirational story for people looking to become billionaires and pioneers in the entertainment or other industries.

How many Lou Blooms appear on our screens?

Everything that happens in Nightcrawler horrifies us. It also informs us of the passivity and parsimony of those behind the cameras when dealing with the news of accidents and murders.

We see how the less sensationalist journalist with a hint of personal decency gets relegated so his colleagues don’t lose out in the competitive business of morbid, malicious, and false images.

Every day, the audience sees the news that Nightcrawler brings in the morning. News about dead girls or rich people being assaulted. Morbid and sensational data and images.

With women dressed in cocktail dresses and men in dinner jackets, we see how the moral doctrine is established. It exhibits a kind of false indignation and the most absolute frivolity when it comes to dealing with all kinds of issues. As a matter of fact, we could spend years consuming this type of content and not learn one important or significant fact.

In addition to the creation of fear and the superficial treatment of news, the programs create a feed of sensationalist content that involves the most vulnerable people. For example, fearful elderly people, groups of criminalized foreigners, etc. Dramas and personal tragedies are exploited and squeezed for the convenience of the audience.

Bloom recording

Nightcrawler and the deterioration of traditional media

The proliferation of antennas and monitors has led to an increase in news content and image production companies. All of them try to feed the consumers’ demands that they remain active day and night. In its original conception, the media informed citizens and was covered by a fundamental right, that of freedom of expression. However, in the movie, we witness the perversion of this right. Anything is permissible with the ultimate aim of winning viewers who are thirsty for extraordinary, intimate, and cruel realities.

Nina is the news director, to whom Lou sells his material. She exemplifies what lies behind at least a part of TV today and the editorial lines of other kinds of media that share content through other channels.

The main priority is simply to become profitable businesses, supported by audience data. That’s what allows them to survive in a context of fierce competition. In fact, Nina employs a devastating guideline, ” The best and clearest way that I can phrase it for you, to capture the spirit of what we air, is think of our newscast as a screaming woman running down the street with her throat cut”. The greater the social alarm around crime in the city, the more interest the public shows in this type of information.

To encourage (or even artificially provoke) such alarm, Nina needs to continually offer graphic and explicit images. Protected by freedom of the press and the right to information, Nina and Lou begin to collaborate more or less exclusively. They start to reveal the most violent aspects of the city and keep the population hooked on their network.

Conclusion: Lou is a sociopath who passes as a successful man

The movie ends with Lou’s words to his new employees, “I will never ask you to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself”. The protagonist is convinced that most media are legitimate if they intend to be successful. So, why reject a successful proposal that’s going to give money to everyone? That’s the real drama of the movie, that in this system no one is totally blameless. However, the police can’t deal with an individual who engages in manifestly harmful behavior, but which isn’t criminalized.

At the end of the film, Lou looks directly at the interrogation camera lens. It’s as if he were looking at us, occupying the center of a practically empty frame. He knows that, in reality, it’s he and his camera that are in control, as long as there are spectators watching from the other side.

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  • Alcolea, F. R. (2004). Psicología y sociopatía según Michel Foucault. EduPsykhé: Revista de psicología y psicopedagogía3(1), 59-71.