Vox Lux ★★★★½

There are many valid interpretations of Vox Lox’s layers: a detached public numbed by terrorism or merely a portrait of a corrupted industry. Upon my latest rewatch, I interpreted this tale as a satanic allegory. 

Eleanor recounts that Celeste made a deal with the devil in exchange for her life following the massacre. This was not a thrown-in, unsupported line; in fact, the deal was alluded to in the shooting scene itself. Young Celeste offers to stay with the shooter, who wears black sclera lenses and mimics a demon. Later, in the hospital, Celeste tells Eleanor she “did a bad thing” and the scene quickly cuts and the line is soon forgotten. The symbolism of Celeste’s choker also subtly hints at this agreement. While acting as a neck brace and later her statement accessory, Celeste’s choker seems to resemble the shackles that bind her to this agreement. The binding nature of the contract is made evident through her lyrics; for example, in Wrapped Up she sings, “please I will follow/ because you’re my last hope/ I’ll do anything you say.... speak to me,” the last of which directly invokes another power. Even on stage, the visuals behind the performers reflect a pray/prey duality that mimics Celeste’s journey from a religious young girl to falling prey to the devil’s wishes.

Following Genesis, Celeste seems to transition from mere follower to someone of more power. In Regenesis, Celeste alludes to herself as a god or a deity when asked by an interviewer about recent terrorism, saying “if they want something to believe in, believe in me.” She hypnotizes the audience on stage and says her new album will be “addictive”— kind of like a dark, addictive, sinful pleasure. She ascends to the stage in the final act bathed in red light, her eyes shadowed, just as dark as her attacker’s eyes with his sclera lenses in. Despite being strung-out and washed-up, Celeste still manages to sell out an entire arena— why, if not for the entrancing nature of the music that Satan has told Celeste to produce? 

The timeline of this film was very interesting, as it is told both in 1999-early 2000s and 2017. In the first era, young Celeste contemplates how her romantic interest “makes the same type of music her attacker used to listen to.” In the second, this is paralleled when a group of masked terrorists uses Celeste’s music to also perpetrate a gruesome crime. While rock has had satanic implications, Celeste remarks that pop is different because it just allows people to forget, yet she ironically uses it for similar unknown satanic purposes.

Admittedly, I am still baffled by the stylistic replacement of Raffey Cassidy with Portman in 2017, while all the other actors portrayed their same characters. I feel it has something to do with Celeste’s recurring tunnel dream, in which she sends ‘clones of different ages’ down the tunnel to see which will make it out the end. I think the replacement of Cassey with Portman without aging up any of the other actors is meant to imply the timelessness Celeste’s pact and how she, the pact, and her music are all essentially immortal.

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