In the 2014 film Nightcrawler, the main character played by Jake Gyllenhaal represents the story of the Eastern European Jewish Immigrant to America. Namely, he represents the types of Jews who found success in Hollywood and the like, despite coming from abject poverty.
Lou’s unknown origins
Lou’s first words in the film are “I’m lost”. We know nothing about his past. He is desperate for work and seems to have very little possessions. Despite being able to think on his feet, he is seriously lacking in social skills. He sounds quite unnatural, as though he’s regurgitating sentences he read on the internet. The people he encounters are jaded and rather disillusioned, unlike himself. When he meets Joe Loder, he’s given some helpful insight into the world of Nightcrawling. Joe calls it a “flaming asshole of a job”, and refuses to hire Lou (fatal mistake). At this point, Lou is an outsider, he is alien to this environment. He represents an immigrant coming to America, likely one from the early 20th century. More on that later.
Lou’s development in the field
Lou demonstrates that he is willing to steal (the watch, the bike) for his purposes. He seems to steal the watch just to have the status symbol. However, now that he’s interested in Nightcrawling, he takes the bike for the purposes of getting a police scanner and a camera. He starts out as a complete novice. It’s comical when he arrives at his first scene and doesn’t know what’s going on. He’s kicked out immediately. At this point, literally everyone that Lou encounters is hostile and mean. He perseveres. He manages to get some good footage of a scene that another stinger was at. Lou disregards the boundaries and goes right up close. They both get kicked out of the scene. Lou takes the footage to channel 6 (after eavesdropping on the other stinger’s conversation).
Nina & Co.
Lou happens to meet Nina while looking for the place to deliver footage. She initially turns him away, but then asks what he has (desperation). He shows her the graphic footage and it becomes the top story of the morning. More graphic than normal, and an unusual piece. Leo Bloom – Lou introduces himself as “Lou Bloom”. At this point it is clear that he’s meant to represent the Jewish immigrant of the early 1900’s (likely from Eastern Europe). Bloom is a common Jewish last name, and resembles the name of the character Leo Bloom from The Producers (1968). Leo was played by Gene Wilder, son of a Russian Jewish immigrant. The movie was written and directed by Mel Brooks, whose parents were also Jewish immigrants (German and Russian respectively). Of course, this isn’t uncommon of Hollywood players, but it certainly plays into the notion that Lou Bloom represents the Jewish immigrant experience to America. Gene Wilder’s mother was the reason he became interested in acting/comedy, and Nina comes to represent a motherly figure for Lou. She is the first person in the film to give him a chance, and treat him favorably. He instantly recognizes the potential for their relationship, and gains a bit more information from her about future footage.
Specifically in comedy, Jews would do imitations of various types of people. Lou is imitating others as he learns the business. Lou is seen watching the film The Court Jester (1956), which stars Danny Kaye. The character that Kaye plays in the movie imitates the real Court Jester to gain access to the castle. Danny Kaye is another example of a second generation immigrant Jew who found success in Hollywood. He relied heavily on imitation and pantomime early in his career when he performed in Japan (not speaking Japanese). He developed his skills in a foreign place as an alien, like Bloom.
Nina represents a veteran of an established industry, which Lou intends on dominating. He is becoming a “Producer”, and delivering his product to Nina. The Producers was Mel Brooks’ first film (despite having done many TV shows). He found his own “Nina” to give him the green light, and later he became a “Nina”. In The Producers, Zero Mostel’s (immigrant Jew) character Max bears some similarities to Nina. He’s older, desperate, failing, eager to try and take advantage of a younger person (Leo Bloom). Also of note, the film starts out with Max wooing elderly ladies for checks he says will go to his production (fake). This idea is kind of reversed in Nightcrawler, as Nina gives a check to Lou Bloom for his product (real). Max also shows similarities to Lou’s character, as he very quickly upgrades his office and car once he gets the “investors” money. Lou will do that later in the film with his equipment and vehicle. The dynamic between Zero and Gene also resembles that of Lou and Rick in Nightcrawler. Rick is naive and timid, while Lou is overbearing and unscrupulous. Lou ends up causing Rick’s demise, as Max causes Leo to lose his career and end up in jail. If Max hadn’t capriciously chosen Lorenzo as the actor for the play, he would have succeeded. Lou is not capricious, and always sticks to the plan. The Bar Mitzvah – Later, in a scene between the two, Lou recites what he learned from an online business course. This scene represents his “Bar Mitzvah”, in that he’s changing stages in his profession. After all, a Bar Mitzvah is a ceremony signifying a Jew’s acceptance of responsibility of one’s actions. Lou is henceforth doing that. Many Bar Mitzvahs involve a lifting of the Jew on a chair. Since Lou is alone, he finishes the scene by simply sitting on a chair. Indeed, he has his foot in the door to a “studio”, not unlike a Hollywood beginner.
Lou seemed to intend on hiring Rick no matter what. Rick has no credentials, no skills, etc. At one point, Lou says “why hire you?”, but then always Rick to continue to ‘sell himself”. Of note, Rick is nonwhite, and Lou initially offers him an unpaid internship. They settle on $30 a night, a clear example of cheap labor and exploitation (Rick basically represents a Mexican, even referencing a past lawn job). Lou was so early in his plan that he may have chosen unwisely rather than capriciously (like Max did). Of course, Rick turns out to be more of a liability than an asset. Lou’s entire plan could have come crashing down if Rick were allowed to continue. In this way, Rick sort of resembles Max in Producers, by making consistently poor decisions. Max is the one who chose the play, the actor and the idea to blow up the theater (all of which lead to his failure). Rick chose to work for Lou, and then to back out after agreeing to participate in the Critical Moment, and then going along for the car chase. Most rational people in Rick’s shoes would have disagreed at all points of this story and abandoned the job. Rick could have easily found a job to pay him $30 per night that didn’t involve near-death. Similarly, Max could have avoided going to jail by making rational decisions. Max failed because he was willing to “sell the watch” and is greedy – unlike Lou, who serves his goals first. Rick fails because he is stupid.
Loder’s Failed Merger
Loder approaches Lou with the offer to let him run his second van. Loder seeks expansion, and wants to bring Lou in as a partner instead of a competitor. Lour refuses. He makes a comment about going home to do “some accounting”, which seems like a comical reference to Leo Bloom (accountant in The Producers).
In the early 20th century, many major corporations started to merge and formed mega companies. On such example is the story of David Sarnoff (founder of NBC). The rivalry between Lou and Joe Loder resembles the one between NBC and CBS regarding color television’s debut. While CBS beat NBC to it (like Loder getting to the plane crash before Lou), NBC ended up outdoing them by providing compatibility to black and white sets (Lou getting to the car crash before Loder and the police). Sarnoff would later join the Rockefeller Brothers Fund panel, which influenced U.S. foreign policy. Of note, Henry Kissinger was involved (another immigrant Jew). Not unlike Lou, money was not the sole end goal for people like Sarnoff. He wanted to have power and control in the upper-echelons of the world. As Lou would show (manipulated the crime scenes he filmed), Sarnoff wanted to not only broadcast the news, but also create it. Interestingly, Lou’s theme in the film’s score resembles the NBC three note theme. It also sounds somewhat like Jimi Hendrix’s Star-Spangled Banner.
Turning Point, Breaking The Mirror
Lou reaches a turning point in the story where he switches modes. He goes from imitating or mirroring others (Loder, Nina, etc.) to self-directing. After being humiliated by missing a plane crash, he smashes the mirror in his apartment. It’s the only time he’s physically violent since attacking the security guard at the start of the film. It symbolizes the end of his learning phase and the start of his dominance. After this point in the film, he starts to “write the story” and control events: sabotaging Loder’s van, withholding the footage of murder suspects, police shoot-out and chase, Rick’s death, etc. Indeed, this is the true “critical moment”. He creates a position of ultimate leverage and uses it against Nina. He gets everything he wants and suffers no consequences. This represents the American Jewish dominance of several key industries (banking, media, government). After the state of Israel was established, the mirror was broken. The controlling Jews in America began to “write the story”.
The Critical Moment
Lou tells Rick that the coming events will be known as the “Critical Moment”, and he makes Rick agree to participate. Rick asks for a raise, to which Lou agrees. His plan is masterful, and involves the nearly simultaneous execution of multiple goals. In fact, everything hinges on this plan for Lou’s future (like the Jew’s state of Israel). Lou is able to eliminate two different threats to his company (Loder and then Rick), as well as capture the most epic footage in the history of Nightcrawling. The footage he brings Nina allows him to gain unprecedented control within the studio. This symbolizes Lou’s state of Israel, as well as American Jewish dominance in key industries. The arrangement made between Nina and Lou is left off screen, so we aren’t certain what was agreed on. Given the demands he made the last time they negotiated, one would assume that he was given a significant reward. Iraq War -To backtrack for a moment – Rick’s death resembles another segment of American history: The Iraq War. For starters, Rick was threatened and coerced into participating in the car chase that led to his death. Also, Lou tricked him into approaching the vehicle with the statement “he’s dead, get this shot”. As Rick discovered that the man was not dead and is then shot, Lou hides behind a nearby police vehicle. Like the Neo-con Jews who dreamed up the Iraq war and the beneficiaries in Israel, Lou avoids any harm. Rick represents the American troops who get sent in under false pretenses and dies. Additionally, there are several moments in the film that illustrate that it is set in the late 2000’s and not 2014 (when it was released). From the radio station’s reference to high unemployment at the start of the film, to Lou’s cell phone, even the dodge challenger, the film could be set during the aftermath of the financial crisis. This was a period when America was still involved in Iraq, and when fatigue was setting in on multiple levels of American society.
Track Towards Growth
Lou gets questioned by the police for involvement in the car chase and shoot-out, but is ultimately let go. The scene of him walking out of the police station resembles that of The Usual Suspects (1995), when Verbal Kint does the same. Lou resembles Verbal’s true identity Keyser Soze, in that he is able to pull off an amazing plan (The Critical Moment) and survive unscathed while all other parties are killed. Further, he represents Soze because, as Verbal puts it, he’s “willing to do what the other guy wouldn’t”. Lou certainly embodies that idea, and demonstrates it numerous times in the film.
*** More Echoes
One Easter Egg that seemed hard to explain was the following billboard:
“Focus” is an interesting word to capture in such an insignificant scene, until it’s tied in with the 2004 movie with the same title:
It’s a film about a man who is assumed to be Jewish because he’s wearing a certain style of eye glasses. The film shows the hatred and discrimination he and his family experience. Lou Bloom is sort of the reverse of that, a Jew who “puts on glasses” (the watch?) that hides his identity, and he’s able to achieve his goals because of it.