It’s safe to say, Nicolas Winding Refn is unlike any other film director working today. His trademark use of lighting, colors and textures to create tone are absolutely remarkable and at forefront here in his latest film, The Neon Demon.
Following his three-year hiatus after the critically-panned Only God Forgives premiered at Cannes, he returned to the festival yet again, competing for the prestigious “Palme d’Or” award. This time around, Refn takes us into the underbelly of Los Angeles, where young Jesse (Elle Fanning) is seduced by the allure of the modeling industry, falling trap to some fellow women who want her beauty.
As mentioned above, Refn (and cinematographer Natasha Braier), know exactly what they’re doing behind the camera. Cliff Martinez returns to score the film, crafting a hypnotic, unnerving electronic score that instantly pulls it’s listeners into a trance. They’ve all created an absolutely gorgeous film that is a feast to the eyes, every shot creating a sense of awe and mystery. This feeling mirrors that of Jesse, placing you right in her shoes as she falls prey to the cutthroat industry. Elle Fanning proves that she not only has an incredibly presence on the silver screen, but her acting abilities are far greater than she gives off. Combine the two and we have a young woman who is destined to become a household name sometime in the near future. Whereas most actresses would’ve played the role as naive, Fanning manages to generate empathy amongst the audience. We understand her, we are her. When she is frightened, we are frightened as well. The rest of the cast fit their roles exceptionally well, most notably Jena Malone, Abbey Lee and Bella Heathcote, who star as her robotic, artificial co-workers. From the moment we are introduced to them, we feel a sense of uneasiness and uncertainty.
Despite a positive reaction to the film, this review does come with a warning. Fans of Winding Refn will enjoy it no doubt, but the unsuspecting viewer may come out perplexed and unsatisfied. This isn’t a normal film to catch at the mall multiplex on a hot summer day, anyone looking for some surface-level entertainment will most likely face disappointment (many walked-out before the film’s ending at the screening I attended). The Neon Demon is as art-house as they come. Most of the content is left up to interpretation and analyzation as opposed to spoon-feeding it’s viewers information. There’s more than meets the eye here, setting high ambitions and for the most part reaching them.
Amazon Studios will release the film digitally through their video service, as well as theatrically on June 24th.