Harmony Korine is a writer and director I've followed for a long time. There is something about his visual imagination that I've always felt a connection with. His film Gummo definitely had an influence on my writing, as did Julian Donkey Boy. His movies tend to focus on characters who exist on the fringes of society, and those are the stories I like to tell as well. Last night I got to see his newest film Spring Breakers, and it was pretty phenomenal.
The movie is told in such a way that it washes over you in waves, and like the tide coming in, it eventually pulls you under and submerses the viewer into its world. The imagery feels very literary to me, like a William Burroughs story told in pictures instead of words. His use of repetition and story looping was very reminiscent of Alain Robbe-Grillet's style of writing. Characters would repeat sections of dialogue four or five times, each time with different images flashing across the screen until the dialogue caught up, creating a layered effect that was quite brilliant. By the end, the film is a powerful portrait of a generation lost in the excess of our culture...a doomed generation feeding off the adrenaline of civilization's decline.
On the surface, everything in the movie seems shallow, like an MTV documentary on spring break frat parties, but as it follows four college girls down to Florida, it steadily begins to expose the darker issues that hide underneath. The backdrop of spring break becomes a perfect metaphor for escaping the stifling boredom of every day life in favor of a drug-fueled fantasy.
James Franco is amazingly magnetic in this movie. His character reminds me of John Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost. He represents the attraction of giving in to temptation and how easy it is to succumb to a philosophy of life based on constant distraction and amusement. Morals are quickly abandoned in favor of enjoyment as the other characters him into a metaphorical Hell. But the movie doesn't necessarily place a morality onto the story. Even in Hell there is beauty to be found. And though the characters may seem reprehensible to mainstream values, they are shown to be human just like anyone else. Much Alec in A Clockwork Orange, I feel like these characters are simply victims of the modern age.
It's a movie that will stay with you and have you wondering if anything was learned or not? Were the characters right or wrong? Good or evil? And does it really even matter? Eventually bringing you back to the characters' main dilemma; does anything matter except the pursuit of pleasure in all its forms?