Only God Forgives

only god forgives posterOrchestrated by mad scientist Nicolas Winding Refn, Only God Forgives looks like some kind of monstrous, artistic creation, the result of an incestuous cross between Drive and Valhalla Rising. Valhalla Rising was an uncompromising, minimalist, metaphysical Viking film while Drive was a successful homage to 80’s B-movies. Only God Forgives is a much more basic work and looking for any message or concept here would be vain (despite what the press kit might try to tell you); rather Nicolas Winding Refn seems to point to Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void and Irreversible (see the scene where a faced is crushed) as well as Alejandro Jororowsky’s cinema – a director he clearly refers to. Setting his new film in Bangkok, the capital of a country where animism, karma and spirits are part of the culture, the Danish filmmaker aims at creating a mystic work where kitsch tries to be sublime through sophisticated aesthetics. The issue is that, contrary to the two previous entries which assumed fully their content and form, Only God forgives seems to hesitate between all the elements that made Nicolas Winding Refn’s filmography successful. As a result, this picture stumbles, failing to transpose these ingredients in a new setting and carrying a message that doesn’t fit here. Advancing almost silently with a saturated red and green cinematography, this is a self-proclaimed formal work flirting with David Lynch’s universe – we visit large open spaces, corridors and hotel rooms, night streets, chic brothels, tastefully decorated karaoke bars, silent muay thai clubs, which clearly contrasts with the noisy, busy image we have of Bangkok is. As for the characters, they embrace that environment, moving – and fighting – slowly like if their gestures were a metaphor for their psyche. The editing is pretty sophisticated as well, the movie being built as a succession of prophetic visions, a structure reminiscent of Valhalla Rising. Some kind of demon or avenging angel, the police chief (Ryan Gosling) delivering his own, expeditious, merciless and violent justice is the real success of this work. The filmmaker gives the impression he built everything around this character, without really knowing how to do it. He therefore revisits his signature ideas, uses a common theme (vengeance) as a pretext and drafts an unconvincing tale of mother-son relationship, turning Kristin Scott Thomas into a ridiculous witch-like figure. Ryan Gosling isn’t that convincing either, somewhat recycling without charisma his character from Drive, almost making it look like he’s in its sequel. What saves this movie is a certain amount of derision and dark humor. When the director takes a step back to let his characters talk, his work becomes suddenly alive – for example, the sequence where the son introduces his new girlfriend to his cruel mother. Many will probably say that Only God Forgives has all the elements to become a cult flick, but a few good ideas and a strong central character are not enough to justify futile style effects and questions which answers do not really matter. Valhalla Rising and Drive were successful not because they questioned the audience but rather for their ability to invite spectators to experience their universe with their own feeling and spiritual inclinations. This picture suffers from structural and aesthetic imbalance and if God forgives, it also punishes, Winding Refn showing here that the creator of a work can punish himself because of excessive vanity. Director: Nicolas Winding Refn – Starring: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas – Running Time: 1:30 – Year: 2013 – Country: USA

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Moland Fengkov

Moland Fengkov

Based in Paris, Moland is a journalist and photographer; He is more particularly responsible for covering the Cannes film festival for Plume Noire, writing movie reviews and taking gorgeous pictures.
Moland Fengkov

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