It is informed by the whole of his filmography as well as the documentary directed by his wife, Liz Corfixen : My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, that it has finally managed to tame this ONLY GOD FORGIVES.
And yet, nothing in front, because as in Valhalla Rising, everything is cryptic, nothing is made accessible to you. A kind of film uber-sensory in which it is necessary to accept the dive. Nicolas Winding Refn, as we got lost in the narration of the film, leaving free course to a expressionism, audio-visual talking about the fact that a scenario, dialogue or narration. This aspect of the film, its symbolism, is still the one that we have the better received, the one that seemed the most logical and coherent. A few thematic obsessive with the author immediately made echo in us, by our empathy for him.
To try to explain why the movie fascinates us, we will interpret them the movie in the 1st degree, what it evokes and provokes in us. We will take the example of a few scenes in specific, those that introduce the different topics before letting them interact with each other. It is through these interactions, that explodes the entire depth of the film !
Fascination for the woman
There are three characters Winding-Refn-links, which regarded the woman as an object of desire.
Lenny the movie buff in Bleeder, iconisait Lea/Liz Corfixen… But, too shy, borderline autistic, he was fleeing despite his irrepressible attraction. Tonny in Pusher 2, was seeking the affection among prostitutes, in the absence of the receive of the other (his women, his father). In Drive, the Driver deceived Irene by its impermeability charismatic, but could not yet never conclude, beyond a simple (but fantastic) kiss.
These three reports, women are synthesized in OGF in a single relationship, and even a single scene : a kind of dream / fantasy in which Julian (Ryan Gosling) is confronted with the whore of luxury Mai (Yayaying Rhatha Phongam). It, him, bind his hands, and then masturbera in front of him. Julian, impassive, the look.
In parallel, Julian escapes from this room. He wanders through labyrinthine corridors, up to this door overlooking a unalterable darkness. This hypnotic nothingness will arise a character (which we’ll discuss below) who will decide suddenly to the hands of Julian. This act extremely violent (and graphic) is, to orgasm May.
If you think of Julian Nicolas Winding Refn – the man behind the author – one begins to better understand these fascinating subtleties in the apparent inexpressibility of the gaze of Ryan Gosling. Sadness, envy, pride, and regret combine to express the fascination, but also the “impotence” of the director, in the face of the Women. Hands are tied back to the sacrosanct – but castratrice – loyalty, to his wife, Liz Corfixen (see Bleeder & MLDbNWR), but also that of the maternal bond, more original. This urge to flee in the face of The Woman reminds her of her personality, anxious, and neurotic, but perhaps reflected the lack of maternal love, having forged a character who is unable to give or receive this same feeling (more on that later). Finally, the arm cut into the end of the sequence may be a confession of the filmmaker that his fascination for the ultra-violence is a brake but also a catalyst of enjoyment. the siena, but also those of others, and particularly Women.
This whole scene of the Man who fantasy the female orgasm through the ultra-violence, it also represents the paradox of the film from Refn. A film becoming with Drive, suddenly popular in spite of strong obsessions as the iconisation (by the aesthetics but also the lovers), the symbolic, and the ultra-violence. Drive contained all of this, but also something that is unprecedented in Refn : a Fascinating Woman (Carey Mulligan). Thanks to it, Ryan Gosling has revealed himself, and has been catapulted sexiest man in the world, capable to be enjoyed by millions of women (and men, including me) by its simple look. Thanks to it, NWR has been, and has been catapulted filmmaker the most artistically popular, able to be enjoyed by millions of women (and men, including me) simply by its sensitivity. OGF puts it all in perspective so exclusively sensory, through this fantastic scene. That meant this character, Irene ? An accident of course ? An image of Epinal ? A fantasy of mother and lover ? Should we continue ? the flee ?
The Neon Demon is expected to very soon answer this question, even if the character of Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas), Julian’s mother in OGF, offers a track of thinking as the avatar of all the parental figures already seen in the cinema of NWR.
Fascination for the parental figure
A few minutes after the previously described sequence, takes place in the exact same setting, in a hotel room-with-whores-lit in red neon. A scene confronting Julian and Crystal, his mother. Here’s an excerpt :
The scene takes place in the exact same decor and the same tone, as that between Julian and Mai, as described above, meaning a clear report oedipien in Julian. But this time, the relation of domination/submission IS the subject of the scene, and the relationship between mother and son is defined inside.
Crystal, is initially in a position of inferiority : it is assisi, Julian standing with his sentence, “did you miss me“… Its emotions, sadness and joy in relation to her children (sadness of the death of his son, a joy to find his other son). But this emotional weakness, that could be in a first-time qualifier of the female, is of very short duration : the personality, the charisma, the exercise of power and control will quickly return to the top at Crystal. The tone of the scene changes. Julian sits down, must raise his eyes to his mother (for her injection). This will also be she who will decide when the equality between the two, passing by a feeling of love (maternal ? sex ?), will be reborn. This scene has its own mirror in terms of ambiguity, when Julian will present Mai to Crystal; the ratio of dominance / submission, the fact of the trio, found himself moved, but just as feminine.
Crystal refers to the father of Tonny in Pusher 2, which expressed the same kind of authority devise to a son – his only son – malleable and weak in comparison. Ryan Gosling and Mads Mikkelsen shared this charism, which fades into a look of submission to the parental figure and/or female.
We will add that in OGF, this parental figure, oppressive also defines the male/female relationship of ALL the characters. Billy loves women-children thai, or “women” to the exact opposite of her mother-milf-blonde Julian is forbidden love, but is subject to his mother, who also keeps a hand of ambiguity sexual towards Julian. Mai even seemed on the point of belonging to Julian, and so change her destiny of a bitch to a woman… If it was not for the brake radical that is Crystal. Even Chang, seems to act only for the purpose of protection of his daughter, the only one to be able to express in the space of a fade beautiful, a peace of the soul.
Fascination for violence
ONLY GOD FORGIVES is divided into two distinct parts, which merge gradually : the story emotional, centered on Julian and his inner journey towards liberation of the female figure, and the narrative “heroic”, which tells the crusade of a superflic, Chang, against various forms of violence ravaging her country, even using this language in its progression. Crystal throne at the top of these two stories/course: she is the mother castratrice of Julian, but also the boss of the mafia white local.
Already, this choice of Nicolas Winding Refn to offer as a hero figure, exotic from all points of view (a Thai ultra-violent with his own moral code), marks a willingness to move away from the masterpiece, artistic-popular Drive. But why ? Perhaps is to return to a work of reflection on the themes that fascinate him… the opposite of addressing the concerns of the audience in terms of entertainment.
If Julian/Ryan Gosling is the avatar of producer in post-creating stars and the symbol of his relation to women, and if the Crystal symbolizes the dysfunction of family inherent in the characters of his film, the interactions between Julian, Chang and Crystal (at least what she represents) will allow NWR to achieve a sort of manifesto of the various forms that can take the abuse. Physical, sexual, instinctive, empathetic, defensive, social, cathartic, free, positive, religious, emotional, perverse, negative, manipulative, psychological – all of which have been treated in his films, and especially in Pusher 2, Bronson and Valhalla Rising. There are only the violent passion that is absent ofOGF, it has been treated in Drive, and the most perfect of ways (see the “scene of the elevator”).. Thus, through These forms of violence, it gives them meaning and resonance, which passes through the knowledge of his cinema, but also of his own personality before it can be justified by the film itself. Hence the importance of examining in depth this fascinating character, CHANG.
Let’s go back to the beginning : Billy, the brother of Julian, is a man who perceives clearly enough (in his eyes at the both hateful and pathetic), the negative influence that Thailand, and all of these excesses of the soul that it can bring. If we already knew that he is drug dealer, here it is its morality that is judged, through the rape / murder of a child. Except that this gesture, provided that it is horrible, unforgivable and irreversible, would never have occurred if he was not in any way encouraged, by a father’s prostitution of his own daughter. And he himself is not encouraged to do so, by the situation economic-tourist in his own country, built on decades of deviations from western capitalism ?
A loop of morbid and violent, to put it in perspective by Chang, through his choice to punish the guilty of the west of the murder of a paedophile by allowing the father and pimp of the young victim from thailand, to have the killer as he wishes. Chang subsequently will bring justice once again, cutting the arm of the father/pimp.
Through a scene of judgment relatively short, extremely graphic and playing a lot on the symbolism of the colors, NWR invites the various characters of the film, but also to us spectators (quite sensorially it is necessary to say it), well look on the face of the state of the world.
The dream of Cassandra
The second intervention of Chang in ONLY GOD FORGIVES, is extremely fleeting and a lot more spooky. In the dream/fantasy of Julian described earlier, Chang emerges out of the darkness for him to slice the arm. The symbolism behind this scene,
A lot more symbolic of the part of NWR, which we compare to the fascinations combined – but incompatible – for the violence and the women… But from the point of view of the arc of a narrative of Chang, it is a response mystical to multiple senses. In taking up the motif of the last judgment, Chang reinforces the idea that it differentiates the acts of violence positive, but reprehensible, acts of violence calculated, deserving death. Those turned by instinct, altruism, or honor, and those motivated by pride, perversion, and interest. His intervention premonition in the dream of Julian is already indicated to this character liabilities that it will have to act by necessity and love, and will be punished accordingly.
On the other side, if this scene symbolizes the relationship of Julian for women – and therefore, by extension, to his mother… his arm is cut off also symbolizes his inability to break free of his emotional ties… But also that the solution will not come from the outside, that will confirm the conclusion of the story – the execution of Crystal by Chang.
Hail to the King
Further, a sequence of fleeting will Chang welcomed by the young boxers, a sign of his charisma, and his importance as a means of transmitting values.
The fantastic 4
Then, a four-stage, four opportunities to examine the violence – each by the stage, the aesthetic, the symbolic, narrative. Each with a very different. To pass on a message, “revenge”, to extract information.
The first is the most impressive in terms of the staging of pure. NWR suresthétise violence in its ground the most ruthless and treacherous : a shooting rampage against unarmed persons. A carnage that expressed in parallel throughout the extent of the corruption of the soul in Thailand. So much death for a few Dollars, so many people involved in the name of only one, and his need for revenge (Crystal). Carnage, who is also the leader of the vendetta Chang, the beginning of the end for Crystal.
Climbing in the next scene, or Chang gets this guilty bruised and uses it to etirper information to his “superior” in the hierarchy of organized crime by Crystal. The occasion of a scene really strange, or Chang will not punish the lieutenant Thai, but will not hesitate to traumatize her disabled son by running under his eyes, the shooter of the previous scene.
The feud continues with the cabaret stage, even more strange. Here, the time dilates and plunges us into a state of hypnotic (the lighting, the rhythm, the repetition, the slow, the sound), giving us plenty of time to consider the motivations of this unbearable torture. Chang delivers a message : the west is a parasite that seeks to expunge; the torture of this corporal, Byron, is a message to Crystal : “I’m coming, and this will be the end of You“. He indulges his own revenge over the shooting before, but in a way quite perverse.
And then, there’s a new proposal when the report of the author women and the ultra-violence : Chang application to the many women of the cabaret, not to move, and simply close his eyes, while he plants things in the limbs, the eyes and ears of the “culprit”. An echo of the scene of enjoyment / violence we were talking about earlier, where NWR seems to say : “close your eyes, and Women, if this is too much for you, but it is, nevertheless, intended for your pleasure“. Because, by sensual, there’s something orgasmic (the lighting, the rhythm, the repetition, the slow, the sound) in this scene.
In these 3-4 scenes, spring the “goodness” of the character, so once again, sensory. Rather than draw his weapon, and revenge, Chang continues his assailant, the blocks, the burns and the wheel of shots. Instead of punishing the sponsor, it pulls out information. Rather than seek information from the sponsor, it is torture to pass on a message.
Julian VS Chang : and, finally of dialogue !
And THEN, on his way to the eradication of evil represented by Crystal Chang and Thailand, there is Julian. Necessarily. The confrontation is inevitable, but Julian is not an antagonist of the judge, nor the reverse. Their confrontation does not, at any time, a desire to kill the other, but simply a dialogue. Chang as well, as the only male figure has really “discuss” with Julian, is that this is the closest thing to a father figure. This fight or it is done latter the face, will be the interaction the more positive that he will be part of the film. This says a lot about the tragedy of this character. These scenes allow Julian to release some hate back, but also to confess its impotence to Chang – to the contrary, proves his dominance to all points of view; it is he that will solve the problem-Crystal. – including stroke Crystal. Julian as NWR admit their incompetence to rule over their desires, giving in to through, the passage of relay in the fight against the figure of the mother is transferred to Chang.
As at each moment of the film, there is the interpretation storyline, the emotional, and from the point of view of the author. Here, the documentary from Liz Corfixen , My Life Directed by NWR enlightens us about the resonance of this scene; Ryan Gosling being the symbol of the starisation of NWR, as the player Drive, Chang being the personification of the obsessions of the purest of the filmmaker… is it not a confession of failure of popular OGF in it that NWR assigns to the hyper-stylization of the violence rather than make his film kind ?
In all cases, these interpretations go through a fantastic lesson for implementation in stage combat. The framing and the camera movement, the soundtrack (Cliff Martinez) remote, reinforce the importance of this fight for these two men, but us away, so to say that this fight, despite his mastery, is not intended for the viewer. The choreography is fast, dry and gross. The shots resonate, because there’s Julian, the only one that we can identify (and still by default), which receives them.
Then, the end
The story emotional and the heroic narrative converge both towards the Crystal, the two forms of reckoning. Two revenges, two murders, two penetrations, two emancipations. Then, Julian will Chang to atone, finally, his own sins.
NWR is concluded, therefore, by the convergence, a course mad through his obsessions.
ONLY GOD FORGIVES may seem disorganized, hollow and vain, but it is, on the contrary, it seemed a logical proof, provided that it is considered how the sensory and especially, re-contextualized within the films of the author. A total empathy for NWR, we thought it vital to appreciate the film. This can of course be criticised and branded as elitist, while it is only ptrès staff.
This is why we would strongly recommend that you view his 8 previous movies for better to consider it (or The Neon Demon for that matter), without forgetting the key to the empathy that is the documentary My life directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.
In SHORT. OGF is an exciting work, to RE-discover absolutely.
Nicolas Winding Refn is a filmmaker exciting. To try to capture the essence of his cinema, we are set to 4 (Maxime, Vivien, Georgeslechameau and Paul) to try to break down his filmography. Each writer to be watched all the films, in the order of the output, which allowed the suite to be able to work together to collect the most items. It is then with its own sensibility and its culture, as each one is launched in the drafting of critical, while being able to re-contextualize the films compared to the rest of the filmography, to the whole work.
Results in a folder full, trying to capture the essence of the work of the Danish director and allowing you, hopefully, to better understand the beauty of his cinema.
Click on the poster to view the critical
with a parallel criticism of OGF, MY LIFE DIRECTED BY NICOLAS WINDING REFN by Liv Corfixen
See also Our top 10 films of NWR, our different opinions on the work of the filmmaker or our analysis of the stage of the lift, in Drive.
Good read !