• James Harvey

Film Review - Mandy - 2018

Title: Mandy

Format: DVD Language: English Released: 2018

Director: Panos Cosmatos

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache

I’m a huge Nicolas Cage fan, when he is good there really aren’t many that can match him on screen, so when a horror film comes along with him in it, it’s a no-brainer, I’m going to watch it. On top of this you have Linus Roache, another incredible actor, thrown in for good measure.

Panos Cosmatos, the creator of Beyond the Black Rainbow, is a director I’ve heard many good things about, sadly said film doesn’t have a UK release, so I went into this film not knowing anything about his style, other than the high praise from my American friends.

It’s hard to review this film in a short blog, I could write a thesis on it, it really is that complex and deeply layered. So, bear with me as I try to keep it short. It opens as a love story between two, well, lovers, Red Miller (Nicolas Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough), they live in a small house in a forest.

From here the film takes a dark turn when a cult called the Children of the New Dawn, led by a failed pop star, Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) catches a fleeting glimpse of Mandy as he passes her on the road. I would ruin what happens if I said more, so I will only say this, bad stuff happens and Red goes on a revenge mission to hunt down the Children of the New Dawn.

Seems simple enough, yet it is so very much more. The style of the film starts as a tripped-out art-house film when introducing us to the two lovers, but it never becomes so much so it pushes you away. Instead we are drawn into, and can feel for, the life these two hippy lovers, have together. I really felt I knew them; how they lived; how they thought. I cared for them as a couple, everything was bliss, perfect between them.

Then the Children of the New Dawn show up and tear everything apart. Red is left with life threatening wounds, as he slips in and out of consciousness, we see him slowly start to break. Putting myself in his shoes for a moment, would I have done things differently? Maybe phoned the police, gotten help? Given how deeply in love Red and Mandy are, I've got to say no; I would have done the same thing.

The second part of the film changes slowly in style as we watch Red fall deeper into madness. Gone is the hippy art-house colours of love and peace. Everything starts to get more defined, the shapes, lights, environment, it all becomes sharp and clear around Red, symbolising his focus on this newly found mission.

Yet now and then when Red slips into unconsciousness the world becomes an animation, showing us his thoughts and dreams, reminding us of his love for Mandy, she seems to be a spiritual guide, letting him know she is with him through this downwards spiral, that he is never alone on his journey into hell. Later these dreams and reality become intertwined with each other, another insight into the breaking mind of Red.

It reminds me somewhat, of the Greek tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, where Orpheus journeys into Hades to get Eurydice back. That’s the thing that hit me the most, Panos use of mythology. Religious symbolism, from Greek and Norse myths, to Pagan and Christian ones, they saturate his film with their bloodiest tales. No matter what you believe or know, you can’t help but see the mythos behind his style of film-making.

And like the heroes of old there comes a point of no return. When the hero is tested, does he become what he fights against or does he pass the test and remain pure? In this example we have Red standing, axe in hand, in front of Sister Lucy (Line Pillet), one of the Children of the New Dawn, does he kill her, cementing his downfall into Hell or let her pass and save what is left of his soul? Well I'm not going to tell you, you will have to watch the film!

This is another example of the complex story that Panos, weaves into his film. It is never a black and white or right and wrong story, you can never say, well these are the good guys and these the bad guys. Lines are blurred between right and wrong, victim and abuser. You never know if what you are seeing is the reality of the situation, or how Red is justifying it all in his mind.

This is reinforced towards the end of the film when we look into the car right at Red, he is bloodied and dirty but looks like a warrior from legends, then in an instant we are in the car next to him, looking at a crazed killer, soaked in blood and shit with wild eyes and equally wild hair. Which one is the real Red? That’s left up to you to decide, can you justify what just happened or are you horrified by what you have just witnessed.

This film is truly amazing, it’s beautifully shot, thoughtfully edited, the cinematography and sound is all carefully planned and executed. From the location, set, clothes, makeup, acting, it all works seamlessly together to present an organic story of love and loss beyond almost anything I’ve seen or read for a very long time.

Not since I saw Guillermo del Toro’s, Pan’s Labyrinth, have I been so silenced and moved by a story on screen, my only wish now is to get hold of a copy of Beyond the Black Rainbow. Panos Cosmatos, has, in my humble opinion, created a masterpiece of cinematic storytelling.

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