'Neptune Frost' is unapologetic. Throwing you into 110 minutes of stark off-kilter imagery and editing, the film is best described as a visual and sonic experience with complex themes threaded amongst musical numbers and gorgeous cinematography. It is unlike anything I have ever seen before, and something that will remain on my mind for months to come; constantly shifting and changing.
Co-directed by partners Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman, 'Neptune Frost' takes the viewer on a trippy journey set in an alternative Burundi. It's difficult to describe the film's presentation in one line; it embraces numerous genres - fantasy, Afrofuturism, science-fiction, musical - while telling a complex story about oppression, resistance, creativity, capitalism and more. The daring attempt to tell such a complex story with an unconventional non-linear presentation sets Williams and Uzeyman back occasionally with a film that I found to be hard to follow along but also makes the film one of the most unique releases to come across.
'NEPTUNE FROST' TRAILER
The film follows Neptune (Elvis Ngabo and Cheryl Iseja) in a journey of self-discovery as a hacker across dimensions and Matalusa (Bertrand Ninteretse), an ex-worker in the mines of metal used to power electronics whose brother is murdered in front of him. They each are led to a collective called Digitoria, revolutionaries rising against the Authority which exploits both the people and resources of the land. As Neptune becomes The Motherboard, their connection with Matalusa becomes the strength needed to overturn the Authority.
The film's plot is complex and peculiar and complimented greatly by the cinematography, editing and costume design. With the film being sci-fi and leaning heavily on Afrofuturism aesthetics, it is interesting to see how the crew imagined this world with a limited budget and lack of CGI – compared to the biggest 2022 Afrofuturism release, 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' (2022), a blockbuster franchise film. The resources the filmmakers of 'Neptune Frost' had at their disposal have been brilliantly manipulated, and the very practical aspect of the sets and effects give the film a lot of personality and unique quality.
The resources the filmmakers of 'Neptune Frost' had at their disposal have been brilliantly manipulated.
My favourite aspect of the film is the costume design by Cedric Mizero, which is completely imaginative with each piece holding a story of its own. It reminds me of the work of Shirley Kurata on 'Everything Everywhere All At Once' (2022) with the character of Jobu Tupaki, using bold and bright colours and odd practical additions (keyboard jacket, anyone?).
'Neptune Frost' is a creative mishmash that is incredibly disjointed yet so unique that one cannot help but continue watching along as a visual experience. Originally imagined as a graphic novel, music album and stage musical, I cannot help but wonder that one of those options might have elevated the message and presentation of 'Neptune Frost'.