The Neon Demon is psychological horror film directed by Nicolas Winding Refn that keeps the vampirism symbolic of the real world. The film speaks the language of counterculture too and it’s the most Lynch style surrealism. Who minds about human damage, as long as it looks good?
Everywhere people fall before the beauty of the main character Jesse. Three women, the two blonde vamps (Gigi and Sarah) and Ruby will stop at nothing to get rid of her, even cannibalism. Soon, other models in the town of Los Angeles become jealous of Jesse’s youth and vitality and the rest of the fashion industry is jealous of Jesse’s vibrancy (like “the sun” as a literally vampiric model tells her). More exactly, the models are jealous of the industry bigwigs revolving around her, so they want her gone. Unfortunately, models will kill her to be her.
The Neon demon is exactly drawing us our world and why not, our professional work world. Jesse is special and that is linked to the danger, and this kind of peolple have to stay alert. But she doesn’t do.
Refn’s Neon demon comes in many forms (a mountain lion that gets into Jesse’s motel room when she leaves the door open…), but we get a glimpse of the Neon demon in its truest form as Jesse walks the fashion show. She walks towards three hovering neon triangles that seem to appear as if in a vision. When Jesse reaches them, she looks up to see three reflections of herself. The triangles are the satanic symbol of the Neon demon. It’s like the three bad women and generally it’s like the bad people in the world.
The white triangle are inspired by the work of the architect James Turrel, whose works are like a sacred spaces. That reference gave the triangle a touch of the spiritual. The coulour blue had a lot to do with the Greek myth Narcissus. Then it’s going to transform into red and go from the Alice in Wonderland girl to the empovered beauty girl. It’s done with just light and mirrors.
Nicolas, the director, although Danish, he spent his adolescence in New York with his filmmaker parents. The Neon Damon is his 10th movie.
Refn is making feels new to us. “It’s oddball”, designed to trick the mind. Novel was Refn’s insistence on filming in the order the story appears on screen. In Hollywood, it’s seen as wildly impractical, a waste of money. But Refn has worked that way since his debut back in Copenhagen, in 1996. To him, it lets the movie evolve as it goes (it helps that his films have ever less dialogue).
The coulour red means danger and it is in every scene with Jena Malone’s Ruby.
Most of the time the camera is static. Nic wanted the movie to feel like if you were through a photography book. He loved telling the story inside the composition of one shot and cutting them as little as possible. He wants the audience to be able to fill some gaps that are left for the imagination. That’s more interesting to him than conventional narrative storytelling. It’s poetry.
As an artist it’s interesting to be under that one direction and go really extreme. The game of “Is this a murder scene? Is this really?” don’t expect the expected. Someone is photographing her and we don’t know if he’s just killed her or if he’s visiting a crime scene. Then we see her pull out very slowly with the dolly camera and it becomes that it’s a photography set.
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