Photography Cinematography – The Neon Demon
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Cinematography – The Neon Demon

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Giordana Bonanno

Whatever film it is, the intention of Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn is always to impress. With The Neon Demon, a 2016 film, he certainly exceeded expectations by presenting not only a horror thriller but above all a visionary auteur cinema combined with raw and ruthless cinema.

Despite this, the theme on which the narrative is based is simple and immediate: the exaltation of the youthful appearance within the often dehumanized world of fashion. Nicolas tries to dismantle the myth of standardized, sponsored beauty through exasperation at the limits of the horror.

One note worth highlighting is Cliff Martinez’s hypnotic music, which did not simply support the scene but became another character in the story winning public admiration and a “Cannes Soundtrack Award” from critics.

With these assumptions it seems really strange that it was all done on a limited budget, but the great teamwork between the director and director of photography Natasha Brairer supported the whole thing, creating spectacular effects.

She says that she also worked alongside Refn during the two months of preparation, looking for the most suitable locations in which to stage their ideas. For an even more studied linearity they shot the screenplay in chronological order, something that rarely happens in cinema, building an evolving emotional journey with the actors.

Among the stylistic characters that distinguish the director’s work from all the others, colors such as blue and red undoubtedly play a major role; but for this film he was quite sure from the beginning that he would use variations on cyan, turquoise and magenta pink, tones that are certainly softer but which, thanks also to his colour-blindness, were bright and vibrant through the neon lights that invade the scene for much of the film. Refn wants to deliberately detach himself from reality and colour is the medium through which he makes this transition to a dreamy and trance-like world.

Natasha Brairer confirmed: “I always work with colour when I photograph, developing the palette and then painting the film, but this time my palette was more vibrant than any other work done before. It was like jumping into a pool of vivid colours“.

The hypnotic effect of the images is the same with which the artist Tarek Mawad wants to amaze us: writings, codes, lines and blocks of colors are projected on the characters of his shots, through a game of lights that hides and reveals body parts, intriguing and intriguing the viewer. He is a multifaceted artist capable of ranging from 3D animations to mapping projections and light installations: more generally, the artist uses all the elements he is able to exploit to carry out an original narrative.

Its strong cinematographic imprint is certainly the element that convinced us to choose it for the comparison with Refn’s stylistic masterpiece.

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

Director of photography: Natasha Brairer

Writer: Nicolas Winding Refn

Cast: Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves

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Written by Giordana Bonanno
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