‘The Nightingale’ Star Says On-Set Psychologists Were Needed to Cope With Film’s Brutality

Already audiences across the globe have reportedly walked out of screenings of the film, which features several scenes of vicious sexual assault. 
Baykali Ganambarr
Baykali Ganambarr in "The Nightingale"

Australian director Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale,” which is currently in theaters, is a pulverizing and brutal sit. Already audiences across the globe have reportedly walked out of screenings of the film, which features several scenes of vicious sexual assault.

In a recent New York Magazine interview, breakout star Baykali Ganambarr talked about how the filmmakers coped with the brutality of “The Nightingale,” which follows an anguished young woman’s quest for vengeance following a hideous act of violence brought upon her family in 1820s Tasmania. Underpinning this brutal revenge story is the backdrop of colonial war between British imperialists and the black indigenous Tasmanians whose land is being ravaged by their occupiers.

Ganambarr plays the Aboriginal Tasmanian that Clare (Aisling Franciosi) drags through the wilderness to exact her revenge. While Billy’s (Ganambarr) communication skills are limited, the two nonetheless find common ground, forming the foundation for the desperate message for kindness and tolerance that “The Nightingale” wants to convey.

“We had psychologists on set whilst doing the scenes, because it’s so wrecking,” Ganambarr said of the film’s many challenging moments. “For Aisling it was really, really hard. Also for Sam [Claflin]. I reckon they can talk about it better than me, because I would be on set listening to everything. Not watching, just listening, and it was so hard to listen to. But everyone was there for each other. Aisling would come out with tears, and I would go up and give her a hug, just to comfort her. Sam and Damon [Herriman], too. The care and love and respect was there towards each other, and that’s what made us keep on going on in those scenes.”

Ganambarr also added, “I was actually thinking about an Aboriginal Marvel character, whose name is Manifold.” The Aboriginal Australian mutant superhero, also known as Eden Fesi, has the power to warp time and space in order to teleport; it’s also the Marvel character Kent herself singled out as a worthy of a spinoff during a recent IndieWire interview. “The opportunity has been there if I really wanted to pursue that path, and it still probably is to some extent. Aboriginal culture is the oldest culture in the earth; it’s so sophisticated and deep. It would interest me to take that out to the planet. There could be some amazing story there.”

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