The supernatural thriller Muse tells the story of a tortured artists struggling to find inspiration in a world that doesn’t appreciate his craft. Creating art is difficult. So many artists put tireless hours into their craft, only to have their work crapped all over by some stuck-up critic (like me!). For every artist that experiences success in their career, there’s a hundred more who will never be recognized for their talent. Was it because they lacked the drive or inspiration? Or is there some mysterious force that determines who is worthy of attention?
Adam is a struggling painter who lives in his studio loft. When he’s not staring blankly at a canvas, he’s gazing longingly out the window at his neighbor Maria in the building across from his. Unfortunately, Maria has an overbearing boyfriend, who is also an artist. Adam reluctantly agrees to go to they boyfriend’s gallery showing, where he meets the eccentric curator Valerie. Adam confesses his frustration with his art, prompting Valerie to look deep into his soul and tell him to find his muse.
In search of inspiration and new experiences, Adam is approached by his next door neighbor Hector. There’s something very sketchy about Hector, he always has a large wad of cash on him and is often overheard yelling threats into his phone. Hector suggests that Adam go on a trip in the woods with him, to get the creative juices flowing. In reality, Hector just needs a ride to go pick up money from a drug deal. But things don’t go exactly as planned when he finds the bodies of his delivery men in the woods, and a mysterious woman in white staring at them from a distance. The two men flee the scene, and Hector threatens Adam at gun point to keep his mouth shut about the incident.
Disturbed from what he saw in the woods, Adam channels his mental anguish into his art and paints the woman in white from memory. This somehow summons the mysterious woman into Adam’s studio. Adam doesn’t bother to ask who she is or how she found him, and even if he had, he would have receive no explanation because the woman never utters a single word. Adam seems to be under her spell. All he can do is paint furiously, turning out painting after painting of her naked body. Valerie, impressed with Adam’s new direction, agrees to hang his artwork in her gallery.
But there’s a dark side to the mysterious woman, as Adam discovers when he returns home to find her standing over the bloody body of Hector. Not wanting to risk losing his muse, Adam disposes of the body by sawing it into smaller pieces and burying them under his floorboards. You’d think Adam would be satisfied having a woman at home who inspires his art, provides him with endless amounts of sex and kills whoever threatens him, but Adam still has the hots for Maria. Little does he realize the closer he gets to Maria, the closer she is to danger.
Last Saint Patrick’s Day, Nightmare on Film Street published an article about monsters from Irish folklore and the movies they inspired. Now we have another monster to add to that list: the Leannán Sí or, the Fairy-Lover. Valerie offers a Wikipedia-quality summary of the creature, telling us that the Leannán Sí typically takes an artist or poet as a lover, inspiring and protecting him while slowly absorbing his life force. The artist is cursed to living a brief, yet inspired life. It’s even said that the Leannán Sí has some vampiric qualities, similar to that of a succubus. She will do anything to keep her lovers, killing anything that might threaten to take them away, even another lover.
For a film centered around art, I found it rather uninspired. There was a lot missed potential to play with light and color, to make reality reflect Adam’s paintings. I felt they could have also played up the psychological aspect and make the viewer wonder if Adam is truly being visited by ancient Celtic spirit, or if it’s all in his head and he’s the one killing people in his apartment. Instead, Muse turned out to be a by-the-numbers supernatural thriller that failed to inspire any fear because of an emotional detachment to the characters.
But, as I mentioned above, I could just be a bitter self-entitled critic who takes joy in tearing down other people’s work. Muse has received quite a number of awards and nominations at quite a few film festivals which makes me wonder, did we see the same movie? Maybe there’s something I’m missing here, but hey, that’s art. It’s all subjective, man.