The Neon Demon (2016): Beauty is the only thing that matters
The Neon Demon is like a girl who comes in your dream every night. You do not know who she is, what is her story, what does she like, who she hates or what lies deep inside her. But one thing, or the only thing you know, that she is beautiful. She is the single greatest beauty you have ever seen. She might be a figment of your imagination but that does not matter. What only matters is her beauty, and beauty is everything.
How does it feel to be beautiful? What exactly goes on inside the skull of a truly beautiful person? Have you ever wondered about that? You probably have, or have not, but you will never get to experience that feeling of being beautiful; because of most of us, are ugly from inside and outside.
The Neon Demon is that feeling of being beautiful which you never feel.
Nicolas Winding Refn, in my opinion, is more of a sorcerer than a film-maker. What he weaves on the screen is more magic and cinema. The Neon Demon solidifies that opinion of mine further. It is exactly how a NWR film should be, how you expect it to be, but still completely unique and very different from the director’s earlier works. It is a piece of art in the form of a motion picture, which you can either love from the bottom of your heart or completely hate by writing it off as a pseudo-intellectual gimmick. There is no middle ground.
In the dreamy, purple, pink and red color-soaked, seductive city of Los Angeles, Jessie is an aspiring model who has just come into the town. Ruby, a makeup artist, befriends her and takes her to a party one night where she meets two other established models. Very soon though Jessie starts to climb up the ladder of showbiz and those two starts to fall down and a wave of jealousy and anger cripple them. This is the basic premise upon which Refn builds up the film. But the story here is hardly something that matters.
What really matters is the cinematography and also the background score. Let’s talk about the cinematography first. I have not seen a more beautiful film that this one in the current year. Every frame, by which I mean every single of those, even the ones which last for few seconds only is so hauntingly beautiful that you can’t take your eyes off them. They are even distracting and make it troublesome to follow the story; if you want to go that way. Cinematographer Natasha Braier deserves a huge round and applauds for this absolutely terrific piece of work. The eerie, chilly, icy-cold background music by Cliff Martinez compliments the cinematography perfectly by creating a disturbingly creepy, very ideal atmosphere for Refn to make a film which relies more on audio-visual storytelling style than dialogue and a screenplay. And for the most part, it actually works. Though, the dialogues, even though there are not exactly much of those given the length of the film (it’s nearly two hours long, for the record) are smartly written, edgy and very quotable.
As far the performance goes, Elle Fanning as Jesse is one of the perfect castings done in recent times. Fanning, although not quite known for acting abilities, is brilliant here and shows real promise for the future if the right opportunity comes on her way. The rest of the cast, consisting popular names like Christina Hendricks and Keanu Reeves in insignificant roles does a fine job, playing along with Fanning. The real star of the show, however, is the makeup artist, which is played by Jena Malone. In what can be called her career best performance yet, a performance where she finally manages to do something worth talking about, getting out of the shadow of a past called Donnie Darko; she is particularly terrific here, especially in the sensational scene where || SPOILER ALERT || she is having sex with the corpse of a woman.
The Neon Demon, in the end, stands as one unique piece of work which can make people like David Lynch and Terrence Malik proud of Refn. which can either be loved, or hated, which completely depends on how you view it.