If you were to have a casual glance at any of the posters for Mandy, you would not be wrong in presuming that the film may well be a hellish and intense experience. In reality, the picture is surprisingly serene, dreamlike and elemental in its depiction of vengeance. The title character refers to Red Miller’s (Nicolas Cage) artistic and eternally innocent girlfriend (Andrea Riseborough), who is kidnapped and burned to death by a cult leader called Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache).
Mandy works less as an exercise in pulse-pounding genre thrills than a slow descent into a warped world. At nearly every turn, the film presents a situation in which there’s potential for a joyous revelling of its violence. However, this is usually undercut by its laboured style that matter of factly presents the violence as opposed to lingering on its effects.
At the same time, the film also functions as a deconstruction of Nicolas Cage’s screen persona. Various moments present Cage’s different approaches to acting and these harmonise to illustrate his appeal. Whether it’s his early scenes that feel like outtakes from his more sombre moments in Wild at Heart or his later scenes where Cage’s over the top zaniness is a measured response to his blood-soaked surroundings. The unifying factor that makes Cage’s performance fascinating is that his choices are filtered through a palpable portrait of loss and pain.
The ascetic: comprised of psychedelic, metal and occasional anime elements paint a feverishly surreal world that is both striking and horrifying. These facets are punctuated by Jóhann Jóhannsson’s mesmerising score that feels like Vangelis’s 80s work is being filtered through David Lynch’s atonal soundscape. The commendably foreboding and experimental score is a testament to the late Jóhannsson’s ability to craft beautiful musical compositions- even within the confines of a bleak and souring framework.
Mandy is a film that presents the manly revenge thriller at its most artistic and visionary. It seems less concerned with enticing the audience with its comeuppance then startling with its heightened reality.