Nocturne Ending Explained (2020 Movie)

Nocturne is a 2020 psychological thriller (and possibly horror) film directed by Zu Quirke, his first full-length feature film. The plot revolves around a pair of twin sisters studying music at an academy. The events of the film are set right after a student’s suicide and the bizarre events that follow. It’s not necessarily a horror movie, as it does give all kinds of Black Swan vibes. The film is open for interpretation and therefore leads to a lot of questions. Here’s a quick plot analysis and the ending of the movie Nocturne explained, spoilers ahead.

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Here are links to the key aspects of the movie:

Nocturne Movie: Plot Explained

Before we talk about the ending of Nocturne, we need to go over a few plot elements, so let’s get right to it.

Is the devil at play in Nocturne?

I’m going to go with no, it’s not the devil. But this is simply how I experienced the film. There is no specific proof that an evil entity was not at play. I saw the film as the progressive breakdown of a person that has never been truly loved or appreciated all life long. Juliet never got to live a regular life because she was always playing catch up, considering the prodigy her sister Vivian was. Juliet’s insecurities and the people in her life resulted in an incredible amount of anxiety and a sense of lack of achievement. For instance, even her mentor advises that Juliet be going after teaching posts because she’s not good enough and shouldn’t be chasing concerti. Eventually, her mind breaks, and she begins seeing her worst fears as premonitions and supernatural events.

There is a line that Vivian’s boyfriend, Max, says, “Moira suffered some pretty horrific personal tragedies. She couldn’t talk about them, so she drew them. Art therapy’s a thing. Don’t you think it’s more likely you saw these images, and now you’re projecting them into everyday life, subconsciously?

I believe Max nails it. Juliet is a troubled person and is on the verge of a breakdown.

Why did Moira commit suicide at the beginning of Nocturne?

moira jump off Nocturne

Moira was a brilliant violinist who was soon to play at the prestigious concerto event at the academy. But tragedy strikes. Moira’s mother goes into a coma because of a skiing accident, and her father burns down the house with him inside. Orphaned, Moira has no one to express what she’s going through. She sketches her thoughts in her book, and one day, she jumps to her death.

Again, I do not believe the devil coaxed her into ending her life. I think Moira’s circumstances were awful, and she was hurled into depression.

Who is Dr Cask?

Dr Cask is a professor who mentors only the best, Vivian, for instance. Cask and Vivian are also secretly having an affair. While it was just a fling for Vivian, and she breaks it off, Cask appears to have fallen in love with her. Juliet comes to know about the affair when she overhears Vivian on the phone.

Nocturne Explained: The Drawings

Juliet gets her hands on Moira’s book, which contains a bunch of dark art she made as she tried to cope with her family’s death. Juliet retains the book and obsesses over the five drawings and is curious about the sixth one that’s been ripped out, which was perhaps one that showed Moira jumping off.

Over time, Juliet begins connecting patterns in her life with the diagrams. My theory is that she’s projecting these events based on coincidences, and her experiences with the blinding lights are not supernatural. You’ll notice that these drawings tend to change when Juliet sees them. It’s like her mind makes sufficient alterations to match the events she’s experiencing.

1. Invocation

This shows a woman sitting with three circular objects in her hands. Juliet connects this to the pills she’s been having for anxiety. It’s these pills that make her faint during her audition.

2. Assurance

This shows a stabbed beast. Juliet connects this to her mentor as he’s the one who’s most unsupportive of her aspirations. The stabbing is symbolic of Juliet telling him off. Juliet links the drawing to her mentor solely based on the position of the hands (fingers) which is a bit of a stretch.

3. Triumph

This shows a fallen angel. At the party, Juliet and Max flirt and get caught by Vivian. The sisters fight, and Vivian runs behind Juliet. As Juliet nears a small cliff, she is stopped by a light while Vivian falls over. Max almost falls too, but Juliet stops him. I believe Juliet happens to notice the cliff in the low light because she’s carrying a torch, while Vivian and Max are running in the dark. Juliet stops but allows her sister to fall over.

Yes, it’s uncanny that Vivian was lying in the same posture as the angel. But as I mentioned, the drawings we see are interpretations by Juliet. For instance, the fallen angel might have had both legs straight in the artwork, but Juliet visualizes it differently, with one leg bent to match the way Vivian was lying.

4. Consummation

This shows two people having sex. Based on the events in Nocturne, we see that Juliet plays all the cards to get Max to break up with Vivian. After that, Juliet makes the move on Max; she causes it to happen. 

5. Purification

This shows a king with a twig in his hands besides fire. Juliet connects this with Dr Cask when he desperately tries to fish out his trophy that Juliet tosses into the fireplace. She does this in anger as she realizes he loves her sister but rejects her. He also clearly states that Juliet has already missed her chance at greatness, and real artists would already be composing at her age.

Her self-esteem is very low at this point. Multiple people have rejected her and have told her she has no brilliance in her. No matter how good she is, in her own eyes and the ones she looks up to for acknowledgement, she’s a failure. She draws a piece of art, the 6th one that shows a girl stepping off a roof. It reads “Sacrifice”. 

The Concert Day

vivian and juliet fight

When the day of the concert arrives, the two sisters have a heated argument. Vivian reminds Juliet that she’ll still remain unnoticed and just another mediocre artist no matter how well she plays that evening. Vivian also reminds Juliet of when she was a kid and froze on stage just before a performance. This triggers a deep-rooted panic attack in Juliet’s mind. When she gets on stage, she’s unable to play and leaves, much to Vivian’s content who’s in the audience.

Nocturne Ending Explained: Does Juliet Die?

Yes, Juliet dies at the ending of Nocturne. She does not perform that evening. How can we say for sure? Simple, we’re shown a person playing the piano, and we see sleeves on the person’s arms. Juliet was wearing a sleeveless dress for her performance (see below). Right after the performance, we see Vivian in the audience applauding with pride which is highly unlikely given the fight they just had.

nocturne sleeves final concert

Unable to overcome self-doubt and anxiety, Juliet is pushed over the edge by her sister’s final words – “You’ll still be Juliet Lowe, and you’ll still have nowhere to go next year. We’re both failures, you and me, but at least I have an excuse. You’re just mediocre.

The ending of Nocturne shows Juliet heading to the roof and stepping off the edge, just like the way she drew it. The words on the diagram were VI: SACRIFICE. This is the roman numeral 6 referring to the sixth event, her death, not VI as in VIVIAN.

Why doesn’t anyone notice the dying Juliet in the ending of Nocturne?

nocturne ending scene

In her pursuit of a successful music career, Juliet sacrificed many things in her life from the age of 4. She didn’t play video games, party, or indulge in relationships. Despite this, the limelight always went to her sister. While Vivian had a regular life, Juliet was a loner. The Nocturne ending shows Juliet falling to her death and only imagining herself performing masterfully to earn a standing ovation. As she’s impaled and dying, no one notices her, and that final scene isn’t really happening either. This is her dying thought that in life or in death, no one would notice her. 

Sadly, this is far from the truth; even if she was not as good as her sister, she was a great artist. And each artist has their own uniqueness. While academic institutions put everyone on the same scale to compare, that’s not how one shines in life. Each artist uses their skills in their own unique way to create art. Juliet, too, could have had a regular fulfilling life, but the only person who was in the way was herself and her insecurities. For a short moment in the film, we see her show belief in herself, but sadly, it doesn’t last long. 

The ending of Nocturne is sad, to say the least, and reflects on the many real-world suicides where young people consider themselves failures because of a misplaced measure of success.