- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 25 January 2017
- Written by STEPHANIE YOUNG | CONTRIBUTING WRITER
The Neon Demon, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, is not a film with an agenda that is set to please the masses. It is a film where the director knew his vision and wanted to put it screen. He embodied his directorial style to create a story that only he could tell. He purposefully did this regardless of the anticipated reactions it would get from audiences.
I love that. Create art that you are proud of and if others enjoy it as well, that’s a bonus. All that being said, The Neon Demon is a fantastic film that is executed brilliantly, throwing the audience into the competitive world of Los Angeles modeling through the eyes of the gorgeous new girl in town (Elle Fanning) and her extremely envious competition.
The Neon Demon is many things, but conventional is not one of them. Refn takes a fairly simple premise on the surface and transforms it into a psychedelic, visual masterpiece where his style is able to tell a greater tale of obsession and frankly, survival of the fittest in the modeling world. The film creates this very ‘still’ feeling, moving from scene to scene with little outside noise other than dialogue, making the audience hang onto every word the characters spoke.
From beginning to end it is unnerving and disquieting, which makes it difficult to turn away. Many of us are unfamiliar with the modeling industry at its core. As a result, Refn takes it upon himself to paint us a picture and create his own interpretation of this world. He presents us with this specific dimension of this unknown world to all of us and doesn’t stray away from that world or try to humanize the characters into being multidimensional. He kept them all pretty flat, in a good way, which made the characters seem more animalistic, feeling the same things and instinctually acting as a group. Various scenes present these girls not as humans, but as exotic beings or ‘animals.’ In that, making the characters flat and not giving them distinguishing traits to make them unique works well in this film.
Although it may seem like a lot of talk regarding the style and cinematography, it cannot be stressed enough how brilliantly Refn utilizes these elements to tell the story in a way that most films rely on the plot to do. It takes a talented filmmaker to achieve this and one willing to take a number of risks at that. However, it all pays off as Refn does it with incredible style.
A number of film critics have spoken out about the film’s ‘underdeveloped plot’ but what they have failed to see is that The Neon Demon clearly set itself up to obliterate any prior film ‘rules’ that have been subconsciously laid down by the industry. As a result, what one may say it lacks in plot is compensated by the style that fills in those holes. In other words, its style and cinematography is what does most of the talking. The audience doesn’t need to be told the modeling world is cut-throat and unsettling because they are shown through colors and visuals.
Giving nothing away, The Neon Demon has several shocking moments, some of which would be borderline unnecessary and disturbing in any other film. The shock value, however, wasn’t forced in a way that felt like the filmmaker was saying ‘hey, look how messed up we make this.’ The shock of a number of the scenes were relevant in that this world we were presented with had no boundaries or rules to it. As a result, the outrageous nature of the character’s actions and visuals felt like they had a right to be there.
Once you have experienced the film it is obvious how it added to the already animalistic vibe we get throughout the film and especially the end. I felt everything was in place no matter how utterly disturbing it got.
One aspect I will constantly praise Refn for is that, whether one can see the brilliance within the film through its construction and execution or not, The Neon Demon has and continues to evoke conversation and interpretations. It is certainly a step in the right direction for Refn and it will be great to see where he decides to direct his efforts next. In the meantime, The Neon Demon will be deemed one of the most intriguing films of 2016.
IMAGE TAKEN from www.indiewire.com