Summary and book reviews of Night Film by Marisha Pessl

Night Film

By Marisha Pessl

Night Film

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Book Summary

On a damp October night, the body of young, beautiful Ashley Cordova is found in an abandoned warehouse in lower Manhattan. By all appearances her death is a suicide - but investigative journalist Scott McGrath suspects otherwise. Though much has been written about the dark and unsettling films of Ashley's father, Stanislas Cordova, very little is known about the man himself. As McGrath pieces together the mystery of Ashley's death, he is drawn deeper and deeper into the dark underbelly of New York City and the twisted world of Stanislas Cordova, and he begins to wonder - is he the next victim?

In this novel, the dazzlingly inventive writer Marisha Pessl offers a breathtaking mystery that will hold you in suspense until the last page is turned.

PROLOGUE

New York City 2:32 A.M.
Everyone has a Cordova story, whether they like it or not.


Maybe your next-door neighbor found one of his movies in an old box in her attic and never entered a dark room alone again. Or your boyfriend bragged he'd discovered a contraband copy of At Night All Birds Are Black on the Internet and after watching refused to speak of it, as if it were a horrific ordeal he'd barely survived.

Whatever your opinion of Cordova, however obsessed with his work or indifferent—he's there to react against. He's a crevice, a black hole, an unspecified danger, a relentless outbreak of the unknown in our overexposed world. He's underground, looming unseen in the corners of the dark. He's down under the railway bridge in the river with all the missing evidence, and the answers that will never see the light of day.

He's a myth, a monster, a mortal man.

And yet I can't help but believe when you need him the most, ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
Discussion questions for Night Film

  1. Professor Wolfgang Beckman accuses Scott of having "no respect for the murk. For the blackly unexplained. The un-nail downable." How does Scott's perspective on mystery and the "blackly unexplained" change over the course of the novel?
  2. Nora asks Scott, "How much evidence do you need before you wonder if it just might be real?" Do you think Scott's skepticism is a mark of pride, as well as rationality, as Nora suggests? Why does he wish to believe in the curse after his conversation with Inez Gallo? How ready were you to believe in the curse?
  3. Scott is relentless in his pursuit of the truth about Cordova. How far would you have gone, in his situation? Is there a point at which you would ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Pessl’s beautiful, haunting imagery and vivid writing completely pull you in and you emerge breathless. She makes you lose sight of the trees for the forest - the eerily creepy forest. Already famous for her literary pyrotechnics with her debut, Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Pessl showcases her immense talent again.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

A touch too coyly postmodern at times, but a worthwhile entertainment all the same.

Booklist

Starred Review. Pessl's first novel, while undeniably impressive, possessed some of the overindulgence one might expect from a talented and precocious young writer. All evidence of that is gone here; the book is every bit as complex as Calamity Physics, but the writing is always under control, and the characters never fail to draw us further into the maelstrom of the story.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Seven years after Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Pessl returns with a novel as twisted and intelligent as that lauded debut.

Library Journal

Starred Review. ...this creepy and exciting mystery story effectively creates the character Cordova, who is never actually present but whose bleak artistic vision successfully imbues the novel with an ominous atmosphere. At times the narrative is a kind of detective procedural and slows down a bit over its considerable length, but the addition of photos, quotations, and background materials in differing formats adds a realistic element to a thrilling read.

Reader Reviews
Diane S.

Night Film
This book is so many different things, but all of them are exceedingly well done and well thought out. I usually do not read books that are over 400 pgs. because by then I am bored with the book and wishing it was over. Yet, I now may have to revise ...   Read More

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David Lynch

In Night Film, Marisha Pessl seems to take inspiration from a number of movie directors including Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick but the one whom the fictional Stan Cordova resembles the most is David Lynch.

David Lynch 2007Born in 1946 in Missoula, Montana to middle-class parents, Lynch had an itinerant childhood moving from state to state before finally graduating from high school pretty unremarkably, in Virginia. By this time, Lynch was quite interested in the arts and decided to pursue painting at the school of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He dropped out in short order eventually taking up schooling again in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, which is where he first experimented with film using a series of clips of ...

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