Written by Perrin Smith
From the second the projector lights up and the first few frames of “Vox Lux” begin to illuminate the screen, it’s clear this is a film that will grab your attention and never let go. Writer and director Brady Corbet’s sophomore filmmaking effort is a true masterpiece. The film stars Natalie Portman as Celeste, a fictitious pop music icon who struggles with the reality of stardom and the violent trauma that catapulted her to fame.
The film is conveniently split into two acts, separating two phases of Celeste’s life: the first being the traumatic event that begins her music career; and the second, taking place over a decade later, as Celeste battles with living in the limelight and her own inner demons. Beginning with a hauntingly satirical narration provided by Willem Dafoe, the film begins like no other, immediately presenting itself as an intense and anxiety-inducing drama. It proceeds to push tension further and further, with every scene allowing that dial to turn up a little more each time. Whether that’s through an intense scene with an auditory jump scare, or a character whose actions never seem to make sense and who seems to be on the precipice of a breakdown, each scene forces the viewer to the edge of their seat.
The film also boasts several other stars, such as Raffey Cassidy as a younger Celeste during the first act, portraying her sudden rise to stardom, as well as Jude Law and Stacy Martin. Law stars as Celeste’s manager, a role he fills wonderfully. He adds a necessary roughness in personality to the tone of the film, with his character operating on a basis of tough love. Martin plays Celeste’s older sister Eleanor, who is thrust to the side of the spotlight during her sisters ever growing fame and success.
Writer and director Brady Corbet effortlessly, and deftly, paints a haunting cinematic portrait of what happens when we lose ourselves. Portman’s performance is electrifying. As she portrays a woman struggling to make sense of herself and her mental state, the audience is dragged along in total shock of what is happening in front of them. This is to make no mention of two of the greatest aspects of this film’s cinematic technique: sound and cinematography.
Sound is easily one of “Vox Lux’s” greatest strengths. From the visceral sounds a violent experience early on in the film, to the gorgeous brooding underscore that pervades nearly every scene, to the wonderfully well-written songs provided for the film by singer-songwriter Sia. Sound is one of the best, and most important, aspects of the film. Sound adds to the constant sense of fear and foreboding that is constantly present throughout every scene.
“Vox Lux” is full of gorgeous cinematography. From the opening credits to the very last frame, every single scene is a painting. The film is a masterclass is beautiful visuals, full of tracking shots and close-ups, each scene adds a little more tension than the last.
Natalie Portman and writer and director Brady Corbet, together, create one of the most hauntingly authentic portraits of finding art in tragedy. A gorgeous film, and a modern masterpiece, “Vox Lux” is definite must-see.