Everything about Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest venture, The Neon Demon, shouldn’t work but somehow it does, and it’ll completely sweep you off your feet.
“Beauty isn’t everything. It is the only thing.”
Amidst all the bloody and rather messed up shenanigans that happen in The Neon Demon, it’s this one simple line that really gets to the heart of what the film is about.
The Neon Demon explores the world’s obsession with beauty by following aspiring young model Jesse (Elle Fanning), who is devoured by a group of women who will do anything to get what she has.
And I mean anything.
Watching the film, it’s no wonder that it divided audiences at Cannes, and ‘enjoyable’ is an adjective that you just can’t apply to it.
However, you’re guaranteed to have never seen anything like it before – and it will blow you away.
The young Jesse in the film is described as having ‘the thing’.
I’m still unsure what ‘the thing’ actually is but The Neon Demon certainly possesses it.
Its eerie, captivating and haunting quality will leave you addicted and wanting more and more, even after the end credits have rolled – much like the girls in the film who are hooked on youth, beauty and vitality.
The storyline isn’t particularly strong but it conveys an important message effectively in a rather hard-hitting, shocking and disturbing way.
It’s nothing short of being fucked up but you cannot help but become absorbed by the madness.
At the heart of this film’s success is an absolutely sensational performance by the young Elle Fanning, who plays Jesse.
At first, she is sweet, innocent and naïve but a much darker side to her character is slowly uncovered.
Fanning’s performance is so subtle we do not even detect the moment of mutation, and that is the true beauty of it.
The 18-year-old has certainly proved herself with this performance, outshining the rest of the cast, although the likes of Jena Malone and Abbey Lee are also remarkable.
Nicolas Winding Refn always places an emphasis on style but with The Neon Demon he has excelled himself.
This isn’t just cinema – this is art.
Visually striking with brilliant use of lighting, colour (do expect a lot of neon) and scenery, certain sequences will stay in your mind forever.
Accompanying the arresting visuals is an electro-fuelled soundtrack that fits perfectly with the tone of the film and is the icing on the cake.
This is certainly one of the best films of the year so far. What on earth is Winding Refn going to do next?
Words by Emily Murray