Recently, it has come to my attention that Andrew Garfield is a pretty great actor. Having just re-watched The Social Network (2010), in which he played Eduardo Saverin, it was pure coincidence that a week later, my social media feed was sharing snippets of a new film, Under The Silver Lake. Both films seem to encapsulate their respective zeitgeists, and in doing so, leave us with some dark and seriously entertaining material.
After careful deliberation, the decision to go and see it at the cinema did not disappoint. As an attempt to describe the viewer experience, it is very much as if director David Robert Mitchell managed to capture and film the R.E.M of a cinephile, and as a result benefits massively from being seen in a dark cinema room without a break. The slightly lengthy runtime will most probably hurt box office numbers, but is one of those cinematic experiences where every scene counts and each detail adds to the rich visual tapestry, building up the trance that it induces and making it impossible to turn away.
The essence of this film is reminiscent to Kristen Roupenian’s recent writing debut, You Know You Want This (2019), a dizzying collection of short stories that delves into such a lucid depiction of individuals’ socially unacceptable, disgusting and embarrassing thoughts, feelings and actions, that it often enters the realm of horror – the wonder of Under The Silver Lake comes from how it does exactly that. At once disgusting and surprising, one of my favourite scenes was the keying of his car by a group of young pre-pubescent boys, or more precisely Sam’s reaction to it. Spotting them from a distance egging, keying and urinating on cars, he lurks in the shadows following them, until he leaps out from behind the darkness provided by cars and palm trees, sucker punches and crushes an egg into this young boy’s blood-filled mouth. It was incredibly unsettling to see this scene unfold, but equally satisfying. Although it was probably a slight overreaction, there is not much getting around the fact that the kid had it coming.
Due to the same on-going energy the film possessed, this was an extremely refreshing cinematic experience as it did not simply require me to follow the plot but pushed my involvement with it to go a little further, inducing me into my own dreamlike state, thinking about why we love and obsess over things so intensely, or how our own thoughts can sometimes go too fast for us to catch up with them right away.
This is not a film about conspiracies, but rather chronicles our dark and ugly behaviours as human beings, our fascinations and fixations, and illustrates the deep, dark, lonely hole that is paranoia. Garfield portrays this perfectly, reaching new levels of talent and skill as he manipulates the silences in his scenes with the weight of boredom, despair or curiosity his character seems to carry on his shoulders. As Garfield said himself in an interview with David Jenkins for Little White Lies, this film is in fact the “Anti-La La Land”, showcasing a gritty yet naturally cinematic Los Angeles, where the plight of growing up does not go down well with the generation that grew up with Nintendos and caring parents.
Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor