Daisy Edgar Jones and Sebastian Stan perform as the alluring Noa and Steve in Mimi Cave’s debut film, Fresh which is known to pull the audience to explore the human ferociousness of modern dating. The taste of infatuation and love has never tasted sweeter than portrayed by the screenwriter Lauryn Kahn. The film draws some of the modernistic implications that are interesting for the new audience to explore.
The opening scene has dark undertones that present us with the hero’s presence even before he enters the screen. The mysterious music by Blood Orange compliments what is to unfold by setting the stage where the director intelligently plays her experimentation. Noa is seen navigating her way to meet her audacious date who doesn’t necessarily is chivalric but expects his women to be hyper-feminine for which he ridicules Noa’s individuality.
The comment on traditional needs and expectations that the man imposes stems from his masculine anxiety. Poor at handling rejections, where his fragile self-esteem becomes alert, he calls Noa “a stuck-up bitch” by projecting his feelings on her when she chooses to call off the date. After multiple defeats, we realise the need for a failure to take place so that the hero can look polished and good enough to enter the main picture smoothly.
Noa’s frustration with online dating makes her curious to meet Steve whom she apparently met at a grocery store. Her expressions are such that we are to make out her being alarmed and lured in a fascinating way because living in a consumeristic-driven world, meeting people traditionally has become a rare phenomenon. The disillusionment of online dating, when Noa finally meets her hero, she gives in to every hopeless romantic’s dream.
Steve’s character from the beginning comes with unique symbolism which we need to pay close attention to. The character’s motive throughout the film Fresh remains to be suspicious and can be analysed through his attire and taste in art. Steve is always found wearing warm dark tones that culturally represent his aura. His choice of clothing is always sophisticated, and rich, he seems to have qualities which attract the heterosexual female. The eroticism and power the colour holds, like the psychoanalyst John Carl Flugel said, “Men gave up their right to all the brighter, gayer, more elaborate, and more varied forms of ornamentation.” With the heightened emotions, women feel when there is anticipation and discovery, the feminine intuition to learn more about a man, gets elevated.
As much as predictability has peace, women are drawn to solve the myriad mysteries that always keep them on their toes. By this, women unintentionally submit themselves to men by giving them the power of an aggressor. Although, the narrative has been formed through Noa’s character, does she have the equal right and representation as an individual to express her distinctiveness or is she a lost female trying to fit into a role? As much as Steve’s nuanced character, does her role give her the power of privilege to dictate the plot?
When the pair finally hit off, they decided to spend the weekend together and take on an impromptu trip where all the drama unfolds. Steve’s house has modern architecture with clean and defined lines, lack of embellishments but a good deal of abstract paintings to compliment his independence. The paintings do not focus on the singular truth but advance us to think of subjective realities. Like Steve himself who is open for the audience to judge, abstract art as well, is like a spectrum to understand him. Its non-objective and nuanced compositions, perfectly sit to improvise Steve’s character.
Steve like a gentleman takes care of the plot by pouring wine and being his charming self. His malevolent trait is finally revealed to the audience when he drugs Noa to capsulate her. Without any manipulative tricks, he unfolds his motive to cut her body parts and sell them off.
Fresh: Cannibalism and absurdity
Schopenhauer writes, “The concept of Wrong [for which we can substitute “Supreme Error”] . . . in its most universal abstraction, is most completely, peculiarly, and palpably expressed in cannibalism. This is its most distinct and obvious type, the terrible picture of the greatest conflict of the will with itself at the highest grade of its objectification, which is man. After this we have murder”. Cannibalism is an act of the primitive and barbaric according to Western ideologies, such that we frown and scorn Steve’s actions. The representation of meat throughout the film Fresh has graphic detailing where we are no longer able to look at food through the lens of cultural supremacy.
The act of eating, cooking, and selling human flesh has been depicted in a way to showcase the privileged elite class. Food in a way here is a symbol to showcase one’s power, domination, control, and one’s superior taste who can afford the rare commodity. The human is no longer attached to itself but has been reduced to a body. The existentialist quality has also been noted when Steve reveals his indulgence in cannibalism is due to his desperate need to make sense of life. Why is there an overwhelming urge to find meaning and purpose rather than we have our belief in the absurdity of life?
Fresh uses meat as a way to silence women who are only commodities in the lens of men. Not only is Noa victimised but so are other women who have not even given a face. The facelessness and mere voices showcase how women from periods are voicing themselves and their rights but the lack of representation given to them is devastating. The film metaphorically speaks the language of women’s trauma. When in the movie, we are made aware of Noa’s special treatment, it makes us ponder how women have been placed against each other.
Dance is another form of symbolism that makes its recurring presence. The scenes give us a mental representation of an illusion both characters want to live in. The systematic and coordinated movements are performed to give us to think about Noa and Steve’s submission towards each other even though Steve is clearly a monster. The imagination flows freely and both the characters have no responsibility to do something for the plot but rather just enjoy each other’s company.
The ending of the film is when Noa takes Steve’s life and saves the women from being marginalised, she gives them the representation they always deserved. Steve’s narcissistic traits not only make him identify with Patrick Bateman from American Psycho but it is his gentleness that he has towards women makes us empathise with him.
Fresh helps us to gain newer perspectives and its heavy symbolism and commentary on individualism is a trademark of modernistic literature. The film challenges and pushes its own limits by testing the audience at the same time.