Saul Pincus and Mitch Magonet were Bialik High School students when they first collaborated, Pincus directing a short film and Magonet composing the music for it.
Now, in their ongoing creative partnership that has since realized numerous projects, the duo have co-written and co-produced Nocturne, an urban fairy tale for adults, directed by Pincus.
The movie is already drawing the attention of award-giving film festivals in which it was entered prior to its general release Feb. 7. It garnered best film at both the New Jersey International Film Festival and the Cinema on the Bayou Film Festival, where judges recognized its unique theme and the visionary outlook with which it has been interpreted. The film premiered at the 2014 Warsaw Film Festival.
“The idea came to me while I was in Australia for my grandmother’s 100th birthday party,” says now-Torontonian Pincus who, in his jet-lagged hours, had the time to ponder his concept of an insomniac who becomes fascinated with a sleepwalker.
Pincus spent part of his career editing films and as a teaching assistant to Concordia University screenwriting instructor Michel Choquette.
Magonet, a Montrealer who otherwise focuses on composing music for Disney and Ubisoft video games, TV shows and musical theatre like the off-Broadway RIO, took up the challenge to co-write his first script, leaving the music to Raiomond Mirza.
“It fed into my interest in storytelling. Saul and I built this story from scratch when I was living in Toronto, [about a] unique nocturnal world filled with these bizarre nocturnal characters.”
The co-writers have come up with a captivating look into the minds of two individuals, the heroine being a 36-year-old woman, Cindy, whose childhood was marked by her publishing an illustrated children’s story, followed by the tragic death of her supportive parents.
She now must evade the control of her unsympathetic aunt, who razed her creative aerie in the turret of her Ontario island home, and keeps her medicated in her emotionally sterile premises and chained to a joyless office job.
When Cindy notices Armen, a sleepwalking office colleague, her involvement with his well-being leads her to self-realization.
Pincus has envisioned their nocturnal environment in exquisite shots reminiscent of Edward Hopper’s paintings, with deserted urban landscapes, shafts of light, and dramatic illumination that recalls large-scale set design for the theatre. The excitement of a wild car ride renders the film anything but sleepy.
Mary Krohnert as Cindy and Knickoy Robinson as Armen are believable and engaging as the leads, with Marcia Bennett eliciting chills as the icy aunt, and the delightful Ian Downie, famous as the cap-wearing senior in the TD Bank commercials, as the kindly estate lawyer.
Though the cast is union-hired and their quality unmistakable, Pincus admits one difficulty. “Because it’s a film with no big stars, it’s a very tough road, particularly today with the democratization of filmmaking through technology. It’s a very crowded field,” he says.
The difference that makes Nocturne stand out from the rest is Pincus’ attention to detail and his preparation via animatics, storyboarding that planned out every scene and shot.
Also setting it apart is that five minutes of the 116-minute movie is animated. Cindy’s character is at times rendered as a kinetic drawing, supplying the back-story for her life and the symbols of her new one to come.
“Animation was part of the concept,” Pincus says. “Fanny Berthiaume, a Concordia animation graduate, and I spent 10 months collaborating. I took her drawings and made them flow and layered them.”
Next on Pincus and Magonet’s agenda is The Parallel, a five-season sci-fi web and TV series. Nocturne will be available on iTunes, digital platforms worldwide and as a DVD on Amazon.ca.
See the trailer at vimeo.com/197443834