It is arguable that Under the Silver Lake is a film that captures a paranoid state of mind in the age of information. Not only does it occupy this state, but it also apprehends how moral corruption in the world can make individuals misanthropic. Notably, the film manipulates paranoia and places it in the hand of our ever-growing and heightened obsession with conspiracy based theories that surface in the times we live. Amongst garnering an infamous reputation due to its distribution woes and polarized reception, Under the Silver Lake still make its statements, even if its voice does get lost in the echoes of its neo-noir odyssey.
Under the Silver Lake follows the jolting journey of Sam (Andrew Garfield), a complex character in its own right, who becomes infatuated with his new neighbor Sarah (Riley Keough). Sam is lazy and contemptuous, ignoring all responsibilities in his life so that he may live through his fantasies. As Sarah arrives on Sam’s apartment block in an alluring and opaque state, Sam potentially sees Sarah as another fantasy due to his perception of the world and women. Disengaged from reality and appearing to have no prospects, Sam decides to focus his energy onto Sarah and pursues her as a means of a selfish desire. However, not only does Sarah appear as a mystery for Sam to unravel, she instigates the very secret that Sam becomes obsessed with and entangles within.
Sarah happens to disappear without a trace after their first exchange, leaving Sam confused and in a perpetual state where he allocates himself the role of becoming Sarah’s savior. As Sam sets out to trace Sarah’s whereabouts, this disappearance appears central to the core of Under the Silver Lake. However, Sam is set on locating his neighbor for his gain by following a complicated set of clues, what follows is a discovery of revelations in how the world as we know it operates, especially in the heart of L.A.
By merging pop culture within the film, writer and director, David Robert Mitchell, provides a surprising undertone in Under the Silver Lake, remaining active throughout the course of the film. The film utilizes prominently known bands like Nirvana, and the video-game series The Legend of Zelda to pin down and reveal the hidden truths behind their constructed images. This method can easily be identified as an effective way to make viewers of Under the Silver Lake question the intentions behind whatever form of media they may be consuming. Compellingly done through the character of Sam, who acts as a member of the public that deciphers the hidden messages inside our media to reveal the truths we are not meant to know.
At the same time, what causes Under the Silver Lake to sink is its execution is portraying one of the most significant facets of our society: pop culture. With so much content in pop culture throughout the ages, it is admirable that Under the Silver Lake tries to hone in on what secrets may be hidden underneath everything that we think we know about history. Uncovering the truths in society and what the social elite feeds us is such a deep fear that evokes many questions. It is a sensitive topic to tackle, as we all long to see the bigger picture of what conspiracies and ulterior motives may be at work in people’s actions. Under the Silver Lake undoubtedly attempts to portray this through the perspective of Sam, as Sam attempts to lurk beneath the very lake of its title which does not hold a great significance to the film. Instead, Under the Silver Lake is much more centered on uncovering the red herring’s fixated in the movie in a typical noir fashion, leaving its viewers to identify what is key to the narrative, and what is merely another untold mystery.
Moreover, whether fictional or drawing from reality, the vast array of content inside of Under the Silver Lake can be met with confusion. The film marks a high level of engagement, but what becomes noticeable is the gender representation, or rather lack, in the world that Under the Silver Lake depicts. While the film shows the extents of male intimacy and eroticism, almost everything in the movie is driven by males. Women appear to be presented as plot devices, inspired by the male gaze, and transformed into a similar position to the world that TLC’s Sister Wives depicts, combined with the beliefs of Scientology. Whether purposeful or unintentional, what Under the Silver Lake does achieve here is a sense of irony that creates a paradox into how gender is perceived and viewed not only in society but film.
A lot of what Under the Silver Lake wants us to see should be condensed in its runtime, but it still presents an enticing mystery to be absorbed in. The sole question that Under the Silver Lake wishes to answer is: what are they hiding? However, with such an open-ended world in a confined space, the aspirations, and direction of Under the Silver Lake struggle to form a fully-fledged vision on-screen. Nonetheless, this becomes based down to a personal interpretation of the film, and each viewing experience can mark a new evaluation. The originality in Under the Silver Lake could not make itself more present and is characterized by an excellent performance by Garfield. The film may be visually enthralling, and at times, so can its mystery. I am not doubtful that the more times Under the Silver Lake is visited, the more sense may be made out of it, and appreciation may grow. However, until then, several pieces need adding to the puzzle.
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