Mandy review: Breaking down the religious themes and symbolism

Nicolas Cage loses his mind yet again in the new film Mandy. But does the excessive violence outweigh its exceptional use of themes and symbolism?

Every now and then, a movie comes along that leaves viewers extremely shaken. This is the case with Nicolas Cage’s haunting film, Mandy. It’s hard to even imagine saying this, but Nicolas Cage has finally found a movie that could be considered a masterpiece. Yet, here we are! Bear in mind, not everyone will enjoy the ultra-violent experience of Mandy. But it’s without a doubt one of the most mind-shattering movies to come our way in years or even this decade.

Part of the reason for this is that the film rises above any expectation of being a standard vengeance movie. On the surface, it’s violent, grim, and extremely unsettling. Underneath, is an intoxicating allegory of religious subtext that will leave your head spinning for days.

Mother Earth

In the film, Nicolas Cage plays Red Miller, a man who lives with his girlfriend Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) on a beautiful hill by the lake. In the film, Mandy loves nature and has a fascination with galaxies. In one scene, we see her find a fawn that lays lifeless and has passed on. We see her cry for the loss of the life of this animal.

Nicolas Cage as Red is playing one of his most subdued performances in years. Even when he is going full Nicolas Cage crazy it’s surprisingly understated. His role is very much her protector, and he constantly senses they should leave their home. However, she says that it’s the home they built together and they should not leave

Courtesy XYZ Films

As the film pushes on, she reads a book called Seeker of the Serpents Eye and within the text is imagery that could be ripped from the book of Revelation. A lot of the film seems to be a strong metaphor for the end of days– giving the film a constant sense of impending doom.

Children of the New Dawn

Which leads us to the film’s disturbing antagonist, a cult that has ambiguous beliefs. It’s not very clear what god they serve, but it’s nevertheless not of a standard religious variety. The leader of this group does infer that Jesus himself should’ve offered up a different sacrifice instead of taking the crucifixion Himself.

Courtesy XYZ Films

The leader, Jeremiah Sand (played by an exceptional Linus Roache), is what one might consider the most extreme form of taking one’s religion too far. Much like Christians, Muslims, or any other religion, for every 100  people in a religious sect, there’s probably 1 or 2 that give the religion a bad name or take it upon themselves to be judge and jury of what is right or wrong.

In the film, Jeremiah’s cult seems to correlate mankind’s obsession with destroying Mother Earth with a desire to destroy Mandy. Jeremiah becomes obsessed with her and must have her. But when he fails to impress her with his music, religious beliefs and charisma, his anger is incensed. Of course, none of this ends well for Mandy.

The Wrath of God

Courtesy XYZ Films

As the climax engages, Red Miller goes down a vicious journey that feels like a dreamlike mission through hell. He takes on a strangely demonic-like enemy that is called “The Black Skulls” who are monsters that wear leather with razor-like features attached. Think Army of Darkness meets bondage and this is what will result.

If Mandy represents Mother Earth, then Cage is God himself taking on hell for what they have done to her. The overall result is extremely riveting and insanely hypnotic, especially with the brilliant score by Jóhann Jóhannsson. His sound makes the viewer feel like they are stuck in a dizzying trance as Cage delivers his blood-soaked vengeance.

But more than anything, this is one of the best performances by Nicolas Cage ever. His execution is still over-the-top but here it feels shockingly fitting and balanced. There are moments where his performance will absolutely wreck you. It’s literally a role he was born to play.

Next: Five Fingers for Marseilles movie review

Overall Thoughts

Mandy is one of the best films of the year and it did not get a wide release. It’s a haunting film that has religious symbolism and subtext throughout. This is a movie to put on during a Friday night and just let the blood-soaked labyrinth wash over you. It’s also the best Nicolas Cage performance that we have witnessed in forever. Lower the lights, turn the speakers up to eleven and get ready to have an experience unlike any other this year.

Mandy is now available to rent and buy on digital release.

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