Directed by: David Robert Mitchell | 139 minutes | comedy, crime | Actors: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Jimmi Simpson, Zosia Mamet, Callie Hernandez, Riki Lindhome, Summer Bishil, Grace Van Patten, Patrick Fischler, Luke Baines, Laura-Leigh Claire
Sam (Andrew Garfield) is walking through Los Angeles at night when a skunk suddenly drops dead in front of him. It is the starting shot for a series of bizarre events that befell the main character. After spying on a young woman (Riley Keough) by the pool, the two come into contact. A day later, however, this Sarah appears to have disappeared from the face of the earth. What follows is a complicated quest for Sarah’s fate, in which Sam slowly comes to believe in the existence of hidden messages and codes, fueled by a conspiracy thinker (played by the almost incarnate strangeness Patrick Fischler, from ‘Mulholland Drive’ among others). And then there is a dog killer active in the neighborhood, Sam cannot pay his rent several times and his bystanders appear to be experiencing a lot of nuisance from the smell that hangs around Sam.
Under the Silver Lake is a remarkable film. It is the kind of film that you don’t see often anymore: slightly obscure cinema that is certainly not suitable for a large audience. Many film viewers will therefore have some difficulty with ‘Under the Silver Lake’. The film has a difficult-to-access main character and prefers surrealism and mystery to the conventional. While watching the film, it is not without reason that the comparison with cult films such as ‘The Big Lebowski’ and ‘Inherent Vice’, in which a dazed protagonist gets lost in an almost impossible to follow plot. In terms of atmosphere, the film is closer to the work of David Lynch.
In any case, director David Robert Mitchell (‘It Follows’) eagerly scatters with references to film classics, especially the work of grandmaster Alfred Hitchcock. Just think of the continuous emphasis on voyeurism (‘Rear Window’). Sam spies on his neighbor more than once, and his voyeuristic feelings eventually drag him into an inscrutable quagmire of mystery. Or think of a wonderfully ironic scene in which a friend of Sam spies on a model with a drone, while musing about the total lack of privacy in the present time. But while watching the film it is also difficult not to think about ‘Vertigo’ and the unhealthy, sometimes even perverse obsession with a woman.
‘Under the Silver Lake’ certainly intrigues and fascinates. The focus on deciphering hidden messages contributes to the fact that as a viewer you are also constantly looking for the countless references that Mitchell has incorporated into his film. Still, it is a pity that the film has to lose some of its mystique towards the end. What also does not help here is that the film is about twenty minutes too long. At one point the bizarre plot twists and hidden messages (existing or not) have also paralyzed the viewer.
While ‘It Follows’ raised questions about the narrow way of dealing with sex, ‘Under the Silver Lake’ may serve as a warning about the susceptibility of young, lost souls to conspiracy theories and charlatans. It is beautifully expressed in a scene halfway through the film, when Sam seems to realize for a moment the emptiness of his own existence. The acting is good anyway: Andrew Garfield is in the right place here. With a constant look of wonder and confusion, Garfield at times reminds of predecessors like Jeff Bridges (‘The Big Lebowski’) and Joaquin Phoenix (‘Inherent Vice’), although he lacks the finesse and humor to really own his strange character. to make. More interesting is the delicately mystical supporting role of Riley Keough,
‘Under the Silver Lake’ shows nicely how a perverse obsession can lead to paranoia, madness and madness, but can also create a sense of purpose. It’s interesting that Mitchell has taken a more surreal approach to ‘It Follows’, although he can’t help handing out some gruesome pinpricks from time to time. It is a shame that the film falls slightly short in the completion and is a little too full, but Mitchell has certainly succeeded in making an interesting film again that offers food for thought, and may in the long term develop into slightly obscure cult movie.