Continuing with the ten best films of 2018, we have Panos Cosmatos’ hallucinogenic masterpiece Mandy in at number two.
So far we have had Paul Dano’s Wildlife, Ben Wheatley’s Happy New Year, Colin Burstead, Felix van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy, Matthew Holness’ Possum, Timo Tjahjanto’s The Night Comes for Us, Boots Riley’s Sorry To Bother You, Hirokazu Koreeda’s Shoplifters, and of course, Lars von Trier’s serial-killer comedy The House That Jack Built. These are all fantastic films in very different ways, as is the film taking this spot.
Nicolas Cage stars as logger Red Miller, who lives in a cosy retreat with his girlfriend Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) down by Crystal Lake. The chemistry between the pair of them is spellbinding, and their idyllic happiness is a vision of simple perfection. Mandy is clearly someone very special, with an unspoken connection to the earth and perhaps beyond. Sadly, she comes under threat when the Children of the New Dawn cult spy her on the road; Manson-esque leader Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache) decides he must have her, and calls upon a mysterious gang of monstrous beings to capture her. Events complicate, and Red has nothing left to pursue but gruesome revenge.
Panos Cosmatos has crafted something so unique here, as Mandy is the kind of film that comes along all too rarely. The amount of adoration the filmmaker exhibits for cinema is evident in every frame; so much detail, style oozing from the images, and with influences ranging from Andrei Tarkovsky to the 1981 animation Heavy Metal. Many will focus on the the film’s second half, which is the more violent and frenzied portion of Mandy. Some have accused the first half of being boring, and that just isn’t the case. Despite contrasting tones, the film hangs in perfect balance. Cage and Riseborough lure us into their characters’ magical relationship, and we feel safe in their love, until Mandy begins to notice that the world outside of their small community is closing in on them. Those who have heard about the film’s maniacal moments will be surprised to find that this is actually a heartbreaking and emotional tale of unbreakable love, and it’s the gradual pacing and performances which are able to convince us of this purity.
Cosmatos invests us in Red’s quest, and once the chaos commences we are utterly enthralled. The antagonists, landscapes and scenarios are profoundly imaginative, and as the narrative progresses the world which Red navigates becomes more and more unrecognisable. By the conclusion, we are left looking around trying to figure out where we are, and how we managed to get here feels like a dizzying blur, as if under hypnosis. The world depicted here is one we have never seen before, and while here we feel so much. Mandy absolutely deserves the attention it has garnered, and Panos Cosmatos has the most exciting future ahead of him. Where will he take us next?