I think I get Harmony Korine’s Springbreakers, but where to start with it? Korine, an auteur of the artsy grotesque and suburbia nightmare has surpassed all of his inaccessible directorial efforts with an anti-opining disaster-piece, that when shed of its burden of time and place becomes a vital document in its own right. A lot of people came out unsure what to think on initial viewing; others no doubt admired the skin on display or the coolness of crime and the brazen display of cocky confidence. As a fan of electro and club music, I was immediately compelled by Springbreakers, perhaps more than I should have been. Admittedly I may be reading way too much into Korine’s film, but strongly feel the need to express my thoughts on it.
Springbreakers is like a house music-produced compilation, each scene is deftly layered with pop sensibility, hidden behind it is pulsating confusion and bewilderment in a psychosexual mess or hormones and sinful revelation. The act of repetition in dialogue, (“Spring Break, Spring Break forever”), music, locations and posture denote the sampled beat, rhythm and intelligent design remix inherent in electro and trance techno. Like all catchy and repetitious tracks, they affect the mind and become ingrained temporarily, they even become annoying in time. The girls’ misadventures in Springbreakers scale from the unfortunate, the uncanny, the sudden and the absurd; spirals and peaks, lulls and immediacy all emphasize the changing of tracks, which itself in the film is signified by the gun shot sound effect changing from one scene to the next – effectively replacing the fade-out or silence from track to track.
Perhaps on the compilation you throw on CD 2 which is mixed by someone else, a different foundation of sound emerges from your speakers. Springbreakers is such a massive contradiction, it is deep and meaningful but also pre-YOLO and filled with crassness and sex, only it simultaneously has almost no sex. The film’s main concerns should assumedly be sex and death; there are coital scenes near the finale that lead to the bizarre and questionable climax. Prior to this, mid-film gender is turned on its head when the girls force Alien (played by James Franco) to simulate oral sex on their guns, but this is not the girl power message you might think it to be, far from it. Further contradictions stem from the cast of characters, the four teens are objects of the Spring break, ubiquitous from the crowd of likeminded and yet given so much emphasis they feel completely segregated. Even within them, Faith is a righteous and religious person tempted only just by the inherent vices. The music in the film is collaboration between dubstep connoisseur Skrillex and classic but contemporary composer Cliff Martinez. One track remixes the terribly obnoxious Skrillex anthem ‘Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites’ into a polarizing by comparison cinematic stirring emotional piano score.
The fluoro color schematic emphasizes the contemporary artifice of vigor and boundless energy and lifts the film out of reality and into something far more sinister. Springbreakers then enters into a long instrumental track, perhaps near the end of the compilation. Does this song give any consideration to the rest of the CD? A question to ponder, as Springbreakers ponders what it is in an Anti-Tree of Life fashion as the camera searches for the elusive moment amidst utter chaos and meaningless reason. Korine teamed up with cinematographer and collaborator of Gaspar Noe, Benoît Debie (Enter The Void, 2009) to create this atmospheric profusion of teen-angst and hyper-reality. This is not the void however, it is a limbo where you cannot tell where reality begins and ends.
A time capsule of the peak of generation-Y, Springbreakers is not really set in Florida, but a time and place that betrays itself, perhaps the early 00’s. A place without pretention and the use of technology is suspiciously absent. In a word it is a simpler time of Dionysus-level hedonism and exploitation.
Now the compilation comes to an end, you know you will listen to it again, and some tracks worked better than others, but more than likely the final portion of the compilation will ground proceedings with a pop-infused song. The time and place that I strongly question in the film is further supported by the ballads of now obsolete post MTV pop stars. A superfluous montage featuring Britney Spear’s career slump suicide track ‘Everytime’ which can be viewed here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YzabSdk7ZA) is used in such a perfect way in Springbreakers and if you listen to the lyrics and more importantly watch the music video, there are two immediate observations. Firstly that something extremely dark and powerful subsists beneath the sheen of pop and sex and secondly, during this period of the early 00’s, generation Y had more choice and consequence (for better or worse) than the oblivious technophiles driven by social networking and split-second trends of today. The music video ends much like the film does; with a severely scarred (actual cut wrist, see picture) but happy-go-lucky protagonist(s), and the viewer unsure of what actually just happened; different contexts of course, but the underlying message is still the same.
Then Springbreakers ends with a very accessible and softer house-techno credit song from popular singer Ellie Goulding, as if to reassure everyone that the ride is over, and the world depicted on the film is totally disconnected from the year we exist in today. The song ‘Lights’ are just that; they come on, we exit the cinema, total disconnect, and the realization that this is not the compilation that you thought it would be, this was the B-side rejected by convention and industry, but adopted by the generation.
Springing from Now!-ism, Springbreakers egresses out of parody and satire into something altogether sublime and deeply generational.
Kwenton Bellette - follow Kwenton on Twitter here: @Kwenton
Kwenton Bellette is extremely passionate about Asian film and the resurgence of new waves taking place in Korea, Japan and China in the last 10 years. He joined the global site Twitchfilm in 2009, is the artistic director of the Fantastic Asia Film Festival is Melbourne and currently studies a film masters degree at Melbourne University. He is very excited to raise further awareness of the what he thinks is the most exciting film industry in the world.