Danish filmmaker, Nicolas Winding Refn, famous for Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013) gives us this year another visually stunning dark thriller, The Neon Demon, starring Elle Fanning, Jena Malone and Keanu Reeves.
The Neon Demon takes place in dreamy Los Angeles. Jesse (Fanning), a sixteen year old orphan arrives to L.A. hoping to make money off her beauty. She meets Ruby (Malone), a make-up artist, and from their first encounter, Ruby sees through Jesse’s beauty and instantly knows she is something special and will make it big in the fashion industry. Everybody she meets instantly fall in love with her porcelain skin and flawless features. She meets Sarah (Abbey Lee) and Gigi (Bella Heathcote), two models who have been in the industry for a while. Gigi has gone through several plastic surgeries and Sarah has not been booked or signed for a couple of months. Jealousy and envy begin to grow between the models and Jesse after she gets cast to close an important fashion show and is photographed by a famous photographer. As the film unfolds, the story turns into a surrealist, absurd and horrific film. The models turn into evil and twisted characters making The Neon Demon a bloody and violent film.
Refn’s love for glamorous Los Angeles is still present in The Neon Demon. He depicts the superficiality of the city and its industries through a shallow narrative with empty dialogues and conversations. Refn’s The Neon Demon is not about the depthless characters but about the texture in the visuals in which he decides to tell his story with. Once again, Refn teams up with Cliff Martinez for a dark and synthetic musical score, giving texture to the narrative and even guiding the viewer through his electronic beats.
The Neon Demon is a product of what modern cinema is becoming. Highly influenced by MTV aesthetics, the visuals include lots of neon lightning, slow-motion shots, and features long shots accompanied by electronic songs, making it feel like a collection of short music videos. Refn’s film reminds us of Harmony Korine’s 2012 Spring Breakers and Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 Under The Skin. Refn takes a common and cliché tale but turns it into a dark and unexpected film. His magic lays in his way of keeping you intrigued until the very ending of the film, wondering where all of these events are going to lead up to. He applies his artistic touch as a filmmaker and storyteller very carefully until the very last second. The Neon Demon is a macabre, stunning and unusual piece of filmmaking which ends in a way you won’t expect.
The Neon Demon is now playing in theatres.