(figure 1 – Poster)
“Only God Forgives” (director: Nicolas Winding Refn) is a striking combination between an incredible use of lighting (fig. 2) and a large portion of gruesome violence. The viewer ends up in a place between feeling that he or she watched something inspiring and in a need of a long hot shower, as if touched something filthy.
(figure 2 – movie still)
Peter Bradshaw in his review states that: “I can only say that Refn's movie is entirely gripping, put together with lethal, formal brilliance, with bizarre setpieces of sentimentality and nauseous black comedy. It has its own miasma of anxiety and evil, taking place in a universe of fear, a place of deep-sea unreality in which you need to breathe through special gills – and through which the action swims at about 90% of normal speed through to its chilling conclusion. It is a kind of hallucinated tragi-exploitation shocker, an enriched uranium cake of pulp with a neon sheen.” (Bradshaw, 2013)
The film is provocative in many ways, but it certainly uses cheap tricks to evoke an emotion in the viewer, one of the many gruesome murders for instance, can really squeeze a pinch of discomfort, but we are left wondering “did we really need to see this?” and “was this necessary for the story?”
The EmpireOnline talks about the impact of the film: “Quite a lot of people left their chairs when the film made its debut in Cannes in May, decrying Winding Refn’s baby as vapid, pretentious and, most damning of all, meaningless. But for those who swallowed the tab whole, the Danish director’s ninth feature was one of the best films of the festival: a hallucinatory study of guilt and a punishing vision of one man’s private purgatory.” (empireonline.com, 2014) And maybe that was the whole purpose of the film, to tell a gruesome story and to put the viewers in a place where violence and murder are the only reality they will ever know.
Robbie Collin says that: “Do I love the film? No. But I love it that Winding Refn has made it; that after Drive’s success gave him an honest crack at the big time he has responded with this abstruse, neon-dunked nightmare that spits in the face of coherence and flicks at the earlobes of good taste.” (Collin, 2013)
The story is unfolding slowly and it really isn’t that complex. There are many symbols throughout the film that really try and speak to the viewer, but their voices are indeed muffled by the never-ending killings and pursuit of vengeance. (fig.3)
(fig. 3 – movie still)
In conclusion, “Only God Forgives” is a film existing in the strange space between a masterpiece and a disappointment.
Figure 1 – A4.mzstatic.com, (2014). [online] Available at: http://a4.mzstatic.com/us/r30/Video6/v4/d8/aa/7d/d8aa7d83-1fa5-b764-7bf3-20caaf80062a/mza_713610779623051545.jpg [Accessed 10 Dec. 2014].
Figure 2 – Newnownext.mtvnimages.com, (2014). [online] Available at: http://newnownext.mtvnimages.com/2013/05/kristin-scott-thomas-only-god-forgives.jpg [Accessed 10 Dec. 2014].
Figure 3 – Hollywoodreporter.com, (2014). [online] Available at: http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/sites/default/files/2013/05/ryan_gosling_only_god_forgives_h_2013.jpg [Accessed 10 Dec. 2014].
Bradshaw, P. (2013). Only God Forgives – review. [online] the Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2013/aug/01/only-god-forgives-review [Accessed 10 Dec. 2014].
Collin, R. (2013). Only God Forgives, review - Telegraph. [online] Telegraph.co.uk. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/10073237/Only-God-Forgives-review.html [Accessed 10 Dec. 2014].