Usually when a movie doesn’t do well there’s a reason. In the case of The Neon Demon there could have been a few things that went wrong, chief among them being that it could have been too smart for its own good. That sounds like an odd thing to say about a film but it’s entirely possible really. The images and the meaning behind them definitely went a mile beyond anything that was to be expected even from an artistic director Nicolas Refn. The director is obviously a fan of the thrillers that have a severely psychological lean to them, but there are times when a bit of simplicity isn’t so much of a bad thing no matter how much it might reek of normalcy and a tad too much of the plain cinematic experience. In many ways Neon Demon seems like a film that was written and directed entirely for him rather than the discerning public.
It deals with a great amount of narcissism, as well as twisted and unreal ideas that feed into such a condition, but it also preys upon fears in a manner that seems as overboard as giving Freddy Krueger full permission to visit every possible nightmare upon his unwitting victims. There’s not much restraint involved and what little there is becomes more like a breather before the next round of horror and utter oddity begins again. Had the pace of the movie been checked just a bit it might have had a chance of allowing the viewer to connect on a deeper level with the characters and possibly understand just why everyone was acting the way they did. Refn might have expected people to follow his flow and be intelligent enough to see the wisdom in his design but this kind of reeks of a type of narcissism exhibited by the director that is hard to forgive when it begins to affect the movie in such a way.
There’s no denying that Refn has a vision when he sets to making his movies, but what he and several directors need to understand is that while making artsy movies is all well and good and fully appreciated by a wide fan base, it is still considered a wise move to create something that speaks to the audience as much as it speaks to them. One rule of writing and obviously directing is to write for yourself and write what you like. But when it comes to producing something that will be seen by others that rule must come up against a compromise that creates something that will be enjoyed by everyone in some way. That’s how a movie begins to gain popularity. Otherwise it becomes a piece for the director and the director alone. That is perhaps the biggest problem with this movie, that Refn wrote it for himself and no one else, expecting that his fan base would simply understand what he was trying to do and go along with it.
Assumptions in the film industry are all well and good so long as they pan out. But when they don’t it becomes a rather risky venture.
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