A ‘hellish’ take on the Marilyn myth

Blonde marks Dominik’s first foray into fiction since his 2012 neo-noir Killing Them Softly. In the decade since, the filmmaker has worked closely with Australian singer and songwriter Nick Cave, capturing his life and creative process in two different documentaries: 2016’s One More Time with Feeling and This Much I Know to be True, released earlier this year. The creative partnership between Dominik, Cave and Cave’s long-time contributor, Warren Ellis, bears bountiful fruits in Blonde, the second time the director has brought in the duo to pen the score for one of his films (the first being the western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford in 2007).

It is in great part due to the soulful empathy of Cave and Ellis’s music that Blonde manages to prod at unyielding melancholia without ever needing to resort to a cheap tugging of emotional heartstrings. When Norma Jeane stumbles upon a calming love, the skin-tingling synthesiser beats employed to mark the pace of the woman’s sexual escapades give way to the stirring falsettos of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Bright Horses, a song that plays like a hymn, written in memory of Cave’s late son. It foreshadows the imminent sorrow doomed to drown all sense of joy and, still, for a brief moment in time, one gets a glimpse of what could have been.

“And the fields are just fields and there ain’t no Lord, and everyone is hidden and everyone is cruel,” sings Cave, a fitting encapsulation of this hellish rereading of the myth of Marilyn Monroe. Far from faultless in its disquieting gaze, Blonde’s greatest merit is its frankness – it tells you what it is about to do and then does it. It is a poignant framing for a film about a woman who lived her entire life denied that predictability.


Blonde is released on Netflix in the US on 28 September.

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