This week we were lucky enough to speak to the director behind some of cinema’s boldest films, Nicolas Winding Refn.
Refn is best known for his work on Drive, Only God Forgives and most recently The Neon Demon, all three of which were nominated for the Palm d’Or the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival.
Talking about The Neon Demon, a film psychological thriller that deals with the corrupting nature of beauty and narcissism, Refn explained where the idea for film a horror film set in the cut throat world of modelling came from.
He explained that the idea was born out of an obsession with the idea of beauty, namely that he believes he wasn’t born beautiful and yet his wife was an idea that intrigued him.
When I pushed him on this he went onto explain that ‘ultimate obsession leads to ultimate corruption’ an idea which runs throughout Neon Demon most notably in the principal lead Jessie, played by Elle Fanning.
Jessie begins the movie as a pure character who over time is corrupted by the world around, a world that tells her she is perfect and beautiful. This eventually leads to her becoming the very antithesis of what she once was.
It’s a high concept idea and one that Refn was keen to explain to me, he described corruption and beauty as being the same thing and in many ways the ultimate form of human evolution.
By which he meant that ego, vanity and narcissism are always seen as capital vices but Refn wanted people who saw the film to question whether narcissism could be a virtue.
While this may sound strange what Refn said made sense in some warped way, especially when he mentioned that being beautiful can lead to opportunity and it’s opportunity that allows us to grow as people.
Speaking of the character Jessie, Refn claims that while she’s most definitely the protagonist of the first half the change brought about in her during the film’s second half blurs that line. A change he emphasised to me was brought about by her ‘reflecting other people’s desires’.
Refn claimed that there was never any other choice for the lead than Elle Fanning, who he discovered when he saw in a fashion shoot.
She’s so unique in her sensibility, unique in her acting she was the only choice.
Neon Demon of course split audiences when it premiered in Cannes and it’s easy to see why, critics have claimed it blends Kubrickian style visuals with Cronenbergian themes, high praise indeed but one Refn was keen to dismiss.
He told me that while he’s no doubt been inspired by Stanley Kubrick and David Cronenberg any direct comparison was ‘ not conscious and was more subconscious’.
Finally when I asked whether Neon Demon was apolitical movie meant to comment on our society’s obsession with physical attractiveness Refn said no, adding it’s not meant to be a political movie in the slightest.
The Neon Demon is set for release on DVD in the UK on October 31.