By Michael Kalafatis (Stoke on Trent)


Sarah asks Jesse, “What’s it feel like, to walk into a room, and it’s like in the middle of winter, you’re the sun?” Jesse replies, “It’s everything”.

Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn Starring Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Karl Glusman, Christina Hendricks and Keanu Reeves. Jesse (Elle Fanning) an aspiring 16-year-old model moves to Los Angeles and with a help of an amateur photographer who takes her first photoshoot called Dean (Karl Glusman) manages to come across Ruby, a make-up artist who introduce her to the world of modelling but also to her two rival models Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee). The modelling world is the focal point of Neon Demon and beauty either manufactured or real is its main theme.

After just living for few days in Los Angeles Jesse manages to get signed in a modelling agency by Roberta (Christina Hendricks) which leads her to a meteoritic rise to the modelling world to the dismay of Gigi and Sarah. Gigi and Sarah are both experienced models who have done countless plastic surgeries that at one point Gigi admits with a complacent grin that her plastic surgeon calls her “the bionic woman”. When Jesse asks Gigi, “You had work done?” she answers, “You say that like it’s a bad thing. Sweet, plastic is just good grooming. Imagine going a year without brushing your teeth”. Jesse youth and beauty is the features that makes her stand out from the other models but they are also the things that bring turmoil in her life as she lacks any artificial quality which is a hard attribute to find in a model.

Nicholas Winding Refn’s Neon Demon is a blend of David Lynch, Mario Bava and Dario Argento especially in its third act when surrealism collides with horror/slasher elements and leaves us breathless and disturbed with the abundance of blood and gruesome scenes. Neon Demon’s cinematography has vibrant and lush colours and meticulous composition which is overflowing with symbolism as the film nears its end and the menacing and ambient score by Cliff Martinez creates tension and the lurking of concealed danger that hovers above Jesse all throughout the film, the best example of this danger is perfectly demonstrated in one sequence: when Jesse returns to her room, before opening the door she hears a strange noise, so she thinks that an intruder has manage to enter her room, so she calls the manager (Keanu Reeves) who comes to her aid and discover that a cougar has enter her room and he blames her for the damages, this sequence conveys the horror of the unknown entity in the room and the unfairness that Jesse faces after the cougar has ransacked her room and she has to pay for the damages but it is mostly about the unseen danger that envelops Jesse from the moment she decided to move Los Angeles.

Like most films by Nicholas Winding Refn Neon Demon is also a very divisive film, as it features gruesome scenes, surrealistic moments that are hard to decipher and a slow pace that will manage to irritate viewers who are not used to Refn’s cinematic style. To enjoy Neon Demon is to understand that it is a very experimental film, that it does not follow a very linear narrative but as it progresses it becomes more symbolic and visually more rich and violent with a very resonant depiction of real or manufactured beauty.

Rating: 4/5



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