Before the Under the Silver Lake began, a man stood up at the front of the cinema and announced that everyone should “just go with the flow” when watching this movie. And boy, was he right.
This movie taught me three things: to bathe in tomato juice when sprayed by a skunk, that cereal box maps may actually be the key to life, and that satanic messages can be uncovered when listening to records backwards.
Under the Silver Lake, directed by David Robert Mitchell—a budding Tarantino-esque director in the making—is strange and nonsensical to say the least, but none-the-less it is thoroughly enjoyable.
It combines a classic film noir soundtrack, composed by Disasterpeace, with a contemporary Los Angeles setting, effectively aiding to the ridiculousness of it all. The protagonist of the story Sam, played by Andrew Garfield, is a broke 33-year-old man living in an 80s style apartment block in LA, who is surrounded by his eccentric neighbours and friends—including a topless hippie next door and a porn star bestie. After the girl frolicking in his pool one night mysteriously disappears, Sam embarks on a wild goose chase throughout the city to find her.
Riley Keough plays the illusive Sarah, the girl who started it all. Flaunting her petite figure by the pool, Sam spies on her from his balcony above. It is love at first sight, so he walks over to her place to befriend her fluffy white dog in hopes of meeting her. Our first real glimpse of Sarah is heavenly, as she steps onto the front porch encircled in the halo of her white wide brim hat, perfectly accentuated by the porchlight and ominous shadows. From there, they strike up a connection and one thing leads to another in her juvenile pink princess room; a room so at odds with the rest of the apartment.
The next morning, she has disappeared along with the entire contents of the apartment. Sam, an intelligent man with a knack for codes, but nowhere to use this talent, spies a strange insignia on her wall, inspiring him to commence his quest to find Sarah. And what a quest it turns out to be, with Sam meeting a strange balloon covered woman, a man who calls himself ‘the hobo king’, and a comic book author who makes plaster castings of famous people’s heads, reminding me of the Hall of Faces from Game of Thrones, just to name a few.
Despite the humorously bizarre events that take place, sobering messages about society are scattered throughout, often taking the audience aback with their frankness. When he visits the comic book author, played by Patrick Fischler, a short montage of heavily retouched, idealistic pictures of men and women are flicked through onscreen, leading Sam to question the sexualisation used in marketing and the subliminal messages they perpetuate. As I viewed the images, it really did make me realise how prevalent this subconscious sexualisation is; used to gain our attention, and ultimately our income. It made me question how evolved we as homo-sapiens truly are, if marketing can take advantage of our primal instincts so effectively even now, 200,000 years the since our evolution as ‘the most intelligent species on Earth’.
Besides the quest to find Sarah, Sam’s defeated outlook on life becomes a central focus of the film. His life is a mess, but it’s the only one that he’s got and it’s up to him—not anyone else—to fill that meaningless void. Satisfaction comes from accepting your situation, rather than striving for something more. Under the Silver Lake provided plenty of shower thoughts to say the least.
The cinematography successfully honed the stylish Hollywood crime drama genre that it aims for. One of my favourite shots from the film was in the Crypt Club, where the camera sped through the crowd on the dance floor to land on Sam and the balloon girl, dancing with no inhibition. It was reminiscent of a 90s rock music video, contributing to the retro vibe latent throughout the film. Another stand-out is a majestic shot of Millicent Sevence, played by Callie Hernandez, floating bare chested in the lake as blood bloomed from the gunshot wound in her chest. The image alludes to the Playboy magazine cover explored at the beginning of the film, utilising repetition to perpetuate a myriad of responses in the viewers, straying from its tantalising origins, the image becomes increasing grotesque.
Overall, Under the Silver Lake is intriguing, ridiculous and extremely clever, supplying the audience with many laughs, raised eyebrows and a satisfying ending.
P.S. This is not a movie that I’d recommend watching with your parents. My friend described it as “a surrealist porno”, so take caution!
Under the Silver Lake hits cinemas from June 20