Under The Silver Lake

Try to imagine that Fight Club was made by David Lynch instead of Fincher. That is the best short description I can offer of what Under The Silver Lake is. Which is not what I have been expecting based on the trailer. I expected something quirky, strange, something reminiscent of the final act from the of A Beautiful Mind, filled with codes and conspiracy theories and paranoia. And this movie does deliver all these, but on an entirely different level. Truth be told, the trailer does as much justice to the movie as is possible for a 2 minute long thing. I mean, this movie would make just about the same amount of sense whether you watch it sober or drunk. But if possible, watch it sober and in a proper movie theatre. It is one of the best movies of the year, after all.

The thing is, I almost did not go see this movie. The trailer came out ages ago, so mostly I have forgotten about it. Then I discovered that it is being screened in my town but had to bail on it twice and seriously considered it to bail on it for the third time as well. Hell, I even thought of walking out on it one hour into the movie because I hated everything that I have saw that far. Now I am telling you that this is one of the best movies of the year. I have fought this movie. Long and hard. It has won me over. That is not an easy feat to achieve.

So what is this movie about? Well, it is about Sam, played by Andrew Garfield. Sam is a carefree dude that lives in LA and does basically nothing all day long, he just hangs out. He likes the ladies and the ladies like him back, he reads comics, plays guitar and videogames. His rent is overdue and so are his car payments, but these does not seem to bother him, except for the brief moments he is confronted about them. Then, one day, he encounters a girl that makes quite an impression on him, so much so, that when the girl suddenly disappears into thin air the very next day, Sam makes his mission to find her. Also, in the meantime, a famous philanthropist is gone missing and there is a mysterious dog killer on the loose.

The story, in itself, has a very dream like feel to it. It doesn’t seem to make much sense but it keeps moving forward with a steady pace. Certain elements, cues, are reoccurring, but nothing is random. There is a method to the madness that his film appears to be. And make no mistake, it will feel like madness at first because there are just so many things that go on at the same time. And I did not like it. I hated the characters. Besides Sam, a slacker poster child, everybody else is an artist (mostly performance artists) of sorts or belongs to the art world. So you got an ensemble of either very rich or very broke people sharing the same pretentious venues with the same pretentious attitudes. Very hipster, very fake, very Hollywood, and why not, everything is set in Los Angeles, after all. Also, despite being genuinely concerned over the missing girl, Sam doesn’t seem to mind nailing anything that moves. It seemed to be second nature to him. It was clear that he does not do it out of malice, or that none of his partners really care about this, but it did make me question his motives regarding the missing girl. And also, there are a couple of actually strange and creepy stuff going on around the places Sam is hanging out at. All in all, the movie takes place in a world that I would not like, filled with people I don’t like. It also takes its time to build up this world, placing layer upon layer with each passing scene. It is only at the middle of the second act where the world building gives way to the mystery that is the central core of the story. And with the runtime of 2 hours and 19 minutes, basically you almost watched an entire movie to get to that point. But don’t worry, looking at it in hindsight, I can tell you that nothing was dragged out or under prepared. Everything is as long as it should be, you just don’t know at first where the pay-out is going to be. But once the mystery sets in, you will be fully invested. And you will notice that, even though Sam is mostly aimless, the story is not, and it has been building up in a clear direction. Just like solving a jigsaw puzzle, the movie also starts at the edges and works its way towards the centre. There’s just an usually high piece count to the puzzle.

From a technical point of view, the flick looks gorgeous. It has wide, steady shots, full, live colours. Also, the way the movie is shot, the camera setup and angles, is very reminiscent of the old Hollywood movies, from the 40’s and 50’s. The technics are adapted to modern sensibilities and standards, but the style itself is from that golden era. The story might feel like Lynch, but the visuals feel like Hitchcock. Same with the score. Unless there is some actual music played in the background, the soundtrack will also be reminiscence of the era of Bogart and Elizabeth Taylor. This homage to the golden era is also visible in the set design as there are many posters of old movies in the background, or on TV, when the characters are watching themselves a movie.

As I was walking home from the movie theatre, I was trying to put this movie in its place in my head. And the more I was thinking about it, the more satisfied I became about the entire experience that Under The Silver Lake has become to me. The final reveal and how just many questions have been answered in the movie did no longer matter. Here, the journey itself that Sam undertakes, together with the viewer, IS the final goal, not the destination. The only reason why I will not put this movie on the nr1. spot of best movies of 2018 list is that it is a very demanding, exhausting watch. And if you are in the wrong mood, or possibly just too tired, you will miss all that it has to offer. But all in all, this IS one of the best movies of 2018.

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