You rarely ever expect any indication of quality of be associated with a new film starring Nicholas Cage. Yet, it’s hard to deny that the reason why this film attracted that much attention is the fact that it stars the academy award winner. It has been recommended for me to watch as the film starring Cage that is surprisingly good. Is it really good? Did I really like it? Let’s get to that after we do the film some justice in describing and classifying it.
The events of Mandy takes place in 1983 and center around Mandy Bloom and Red Miller, a couple in love who live together in some isolated place that looks and feels like one of the books or paintings that we see Mandy busy with all the time. The peaceful life is violently disturbed when a cult leader, Jeremiah Sand, sees and desires Mandy. His followers summon a gang of messed up, on so many levels, motorcycle riding individuals to go and grab her for him. The gang accomplishes the mission and they leave Red tied and gagged with barb wire. Things go wrong between Sand and Mandy and he decides to punish her for ridiculing him by burning her alive in front of Red. Later, Red manages to free himself and goes after the cult and the gang in a rageful revenge spree.
Artistically, the film is submerged into unique cinematography and music, rendering into an experience standing at the meeting point between everything that has to do with heavy metal and a bad LSD trip. Each frame is heavily stylized and coloured to extreme degrees with the music of the late Johan Johansson always adding an epic layer either incredibly demonic or heavenly innocent.
Dramatically, on the other hand, the film is split in half. The first half is all plot and characters introduction with some symbolic and sophisticated scenes that don’t necessarily help the plot but give hints at something else that the film might mean. Those scenes depend heavily on the recipient, you might make sense of them or not, but you cannot deny just how beautiful and well crafted they are. The second half is a blood fest. Not as gory or disturbing as many worse experiences we’ve seen before, but the violent scenes are also unique in several ways and always loyal to the continuing feeling of being in the real of heavy metal and drugs.
Back to the basic question of whether I liked the film or not, yes I did .. and for multiple reasons.
The most important of which is that the story and plot are clear and structured. It’s a classic revenge story much like hundreds that we’ve seen before, and I never get tired or bored from a well made revenge film. The second reason why I liked the film goes against my usual distaste for art house films, and this is exactly what this movie is. Not just because it has a structured plot can it be considered as mainstream. Like I said it has many scenes that don’t help the plot or characters build up. It has some really long uninterrupted scenes dedicated to monologues and pouring emotions. It has some crazy reactions and depictions for the effect of drugs, and it has some very unique choices in the action and violence scenes. They’re probably the least I enjoyed in the whole film especially when they came in great succession or stay for too long. However, I can’t say that I was disturbed by any of them. First because it looks beautiful like I said and second it doesn’t undermine human emotions.
Each character in Mandy is very well understood, and you get the full sense of their goals and motives. Most importantly our protagonist, his quest, his rage and his abilities. Which leads to the 3rd reason why I liked the film and that is the performances. Cage’s performance didn’t develop or change, it just falls in the right place. The place where his crazy reactions and over the top acting become traits that help the film and distinguish him. Also, Linus Roache who played Jeremiah is amazing. A true embodiment of a narcissistic villain who really believes himself. Roache is a great casting choice as well, he’s the accurate face of 80’s evil, and his looks might be a clue to the sociopolitical projections that the film aims at between the lines. Or .. I might just be wrong in reading that. So when you see him through the eye of a drug inflicted person in a long uninterrupted monologue, in the uniquely stylized picture of Panos Cosmatos and his cinematographer Benjamin Loeb, with the music of Johan Johansson, even if you’re not sure what he’s talking about, you enjoy it.
Mandy can be considered as the “Mother!” of 2018 in the sense of being an art-house film with a clear story that seems to have much more behind it. But, in this case, the symbolism and projections are not consistently clear. I, myself, went out with a theory that resonated with me, and if the film intrigues you enough you’ll feel a desire to try and decipher it yourself .. And I believe this will be an added layer of fun.