If there has been one marmite film this year which will have a equal amount of lovers and haters, it has to be Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest, ‘ONLY GOD FORGIVES’. A film which at this year’s Cannes Film Festival caused moral outrage amount critics, something which his previous film ‘Drive’, didn’t receive. Reuniting with Ryan Gosling, the film see him as Julian a young man urged by his Mother (Kirsten Scott-Thomas) to find his brother’s killer, who was executed by the Angel of Vengeance (Vithaya Pansringarm), who literally can pull a Bushido sword out of his back.
The thing is with this film, people will be going in to see this film and thinking its ‘Drive’, when other then the themes on explosions of violence, and Winding Refn hiring the same cinematographer, editor of Matt Newman and Cliff Martinez to score, it is really not a straightforward linear story as what was seen in that. Most repugnant of audiences will probably call this crap because it isn’t ‘Drive’. The best way to separate the two (other then this running theme on violence), is this is a Nicolas Winding Refn film which FEATURES Ryan Gosling rather than a Ryan Gosling film which just happened to be directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.
Off the bat if you’ve followed Winding Refn’s career, will note that this film feels more European in style, almost as if he has gone back to his ‘’stomping ground’’. There are certainly elements which can be related to his earlier works. The voiceless protagonist (‘Valhalla Rising’), the savage heart (‘The Pusher’ trilogy), and hallucinations (‘Fear X’). But if there was a universal thing running through this film, is that its looks beautiful . One man’s journey into his own personal purgatory never looked as exquisite. The neon lights of Bangkok glisten, the lighting on the characters have been clearly placed and directed on purpose. An example of this can be seen with how strips of light are only directed on the characters eyes. The thing is in its set design it is very indulgent, in fact most of the film is indulgent. Characters move and interact at a very slow pace and anyone trying to do a film analysis might find it hard as there isn’t really much in there to analysis.
The thing with ‘Only God Forgives’ this film is designed to be like a drug. An experience, not like some David Lynch ‘’headfuck’’, but as what Winding Refn told ‘Empire’ ‘’This film is designed to seduce you …..and penetrate you’’. And this is what fundamentally is the point of ‘Only God Forgives’. No matter how bored you could be with how slow the character interaction and such, you can’t help but watch it. There is almost a prostitution feel to all the characters, as the three leads are not particularly likable (Gosling gets lost as the charisma of Scott-Thomas and Pansringarm seem to eat up the screen), they are just part of the look of the film then anything, even if there is an undertone of mythical showdown between two gods. The thing is it ‘’seduces you’’, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to make love to you. That’s something which it will do to some as they see the experiment it’s presenting here work, while other might see it as gratuitous shallow rubbish as the fundamental themes of the film is utter crap (however you can’t help but think the soundtrack and how the violence is dispensed around antagonist’s most venomous features). The film has been built all for bad taste, and the whole idea of trying to interact with human’s desires and deepest sins is certainly the experimental nature of the film.
Again this isn’t going to be for everyone, there is no middle ground, but fair play to Winding Refn to go back to his European style. He basically used all his passions and cinematic themes in his past films to paint something very experimental, somewhat of a prostitute and fundamentally an experience. And a experience which, if you watched it you will not say it’s crap as it isn’t ‘Drive’.