The Neon Demon: cannibalism and high fashion

Following the suspenseful and tense Drive, The Neon Demon is another thriller directed by the Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn.

The plot begins as rather common. Jesse (Elle Fanning) is a young girl trying to make it in the LA fashion industry while her youth angers her competitors. She has to deal with the aggressivity and violence of other models, and the seemingly glamorous storyline quickly becomes bestial.

Shots of high fashion are coupled with extreme violence; in this movie runways and photoshoots are associated to killing and eating human flesh. The “older” people of the fashion industry prey on Jesse because she is naive. Makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone) and two other models (Abbey Lee and Bella Heathcote) do anything to destroy her; from putting a jaguar in her hotel room to seducing her, they end up killing her, and eating her, in order to literally own and consume her youth. They are eventually destroyed by it, with Gigi (Heathcote) killing herself in order to get Jesse out of her.

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This extreme plot also reveals our society’s mindset; the fashion world is associated to literal madness. In the movie, everybody is looking for beauty and youth until destruction and self-destruction.

The cinematography is impeccable, with Refn’s beloved neon lights and deep contrasts, however the plot is rather slow. The director favors the visual aspect of the movie rather than the development of the story, even though his spectacular shots also serve as a means of storytelling. Here, the color contrasts reflect the difference between Jesse’s youthful purity and the dark and unhealthy obsessions of the people around her. In The Neon Demon, Nicolas Winding Refn tells the complex story of the research for beauty and success.

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