Admittedly this is a very o.k. film- however I find it visually very interesting. Following the crazy world of modelling the film explores the every popular strive for true natural beauty vs cosmetic in the fashion world.
Natasha Braier was the chief cinematographer behind this film- and from the start it seemed like some sort of under cover operation. In an interview, she described how she was sent a “fake script” by director Nicolas Winding Refn, as a sort of test. She was then given a list of films including Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Clockwork Orange (1971), Scorpio Rising (1963) and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970). Below she described why;
“These were not visual reference points for the film,” Braier said, highlighting that the common thread of each film is that the filmmakers created their own universes. “The reason he showed us these films was letting us know we would be going all the way, no matter how over-the-top, in carrying the ideas of the film to their extreme and without fear of failure.”
Braier also talked about the aesthetic created to give the overall look the film, stating that the whole film looked like it was planned to the extremes, however given a five million dollar budget, this was not possible. Instead, picking the locations for each shoot gave this glamorous vibe.
“When you see ‘Neon Demon,’ every shot, every aesthetic decision is so extreme and so confident that you’d think it’s totally planned from the beginning, but the interesting thing is that it’s not,” said Braier.
I found this rather interesting, although the film was based in the madness of the modelling industry, its stylistic choices were never to reflect this. The colour palette is to the extremes, this is evident right from the start of the film which begins with an extreme use of color as Jesse (Elle Fanning) has her first contact with the LA fashion world. However, the inspiration from this came from Alice and Wonderland.
“The colors are always subtly changing in this scene, the blue becomes turquoise, and then liliac,” said Braier. “The shifting colors does something to your brain, I want you to feel how alien and overwhelming this world is to her.”
During the first half of the film, the colour blue is prominent in lighting Jesse, as her story mirrors the Greek myth Narcissus, falling in love with his reflection in the water. In the film itself, this is mainly conveyed in the runway scene.
Notice the change in colours in this scene as Jesse realizes her true potential. (YouTube, 2016).
“Instead of a garden and pond, we worked minimally — around the runway is all black — and we created a conceptual interpretation of water using blue light,” explained Braier. As Jesse walks to her reflection in a mysterious triangle, Braier found a way to give the light the texture of liquid. “We were bouncing [the light] off mirrors, through water, I was doing everything I could to make it feel like water.”
On truly noticing her reflection, Jesse is aware of her own power through her beauty and all innocence is lost. To mark this sharp shift in the story, Braier transitions the film’s color palette from blue to red.
“Red is not only the transformation and Jesse’s sexual power, it’s also danger,” explained Braier. “Jena Malone for example would always have red, either with light or wardrobe. We wanted on a subliminal level for her to represent a sense of betrayal.”
Red as Jesse degrades in her persona and character.