Friday, 12 December 2014

Film Review - Only God Forgives (Nicholas Winding Refn, 2013)

Fig 1. Only God Forgives Poster

 Only God Forgives is a film about a man named Julian, and the ordeal he goes through after his younger brother is beaten to death after raping an under-age prostitute. After this, the plot becomes a case of events spiralling out of control with Julian at the centre. At the opposite end of the strange set of moments that make up the film, is a police lieutenant named Chang. Throughout the story he is seen as an illusive angel, dealing out punishment and mercy with his highly refined combat skills to those who deserve it.
Peter Bradshaw states in his review ''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.'' (Bradshaw, 2013). This is most definitely a great way to sum up the film, it doesn't feel completely real. In this sense it really alienates its audience from the experience, which is interesting because of the large amount of close-up shots of Julian's face. Whenever the camera shows his face it is clear he is going through some kind of mental anguish. The clear and bold colour choices throughout the film boost the alienating effect that the film has. What is most intriguing about the colour in this film is that through music, the colour red can have a different meaning or feeling attatched to it. It is also done with yellows and blues, but red seems to change from scene to scene, one moment it can announce a sense of danger and the next a strong feeling of lust (See Fig 2).
Fig 2. Red Sofa Still.
It is abundantly clear in his review and his overall rating of half a star that Ali Arikan is not a fan of the film ''Refn and Smith might have been going for authentic urban disquiet, but the result is middle-of-the-road trash-can of manufactured, polished, execration.'' (Arikan, 2013). The film had a less than favorable opening at the Cannes Film Festival and it is clear that this reviewer let the public opinion cloud his own judgment, or perhaps he has seen far too many films that go on this route of colour, sex and violence.  Perhaps the film is unoriginal and perhaps its themes are not subtle and refined enough for professional reviewers tastes. While this may very well be the case, the film definitely had things going for it, the set design was beautiful and fit in very well with the emotions that filled them. The character development was slow and careful, it did not seem boring or dragged out, but exquisitely segmented and paced.
Fig 3. Blue Bathroom Still.
Empire Online reviewer Damon Wise states ''Courtesy of cinematographer Larry Smith, who makes the neon sleaze of Bangkok both dangerous and beautiful, everything is bathed in disorientating primary colours, while the violence reaches a very, very nasty apogee with an extended torture scene that dwarfs anything in the ‘controversial’ Gangster Squad.'' (Wise, s.d.). The violence and colour go together hand in hand to create this gritty and sleazy view of Bangkok (See Fig 3). The almost constant burst of neon light that greets the viewer in every interior scene makes everything seem harsh and artificial. It is done very cleverly as you wouldn't think that artificiality and sleaze would mesh together so well. One of the best examples in this film where violence and artificiality become one and the same is in a brutally drawn out torture scene. Lieutenant Chang takes an agonizingly slow walk around the room each time he picks out his next weapon of choice, using anything sharp around the room. This film blends many aspects into one slow methodical experience which surprises and shocks with its brutality throughout.

Illustration List
Refn, N (2013) Figure 1. Only God Forgives Poster. (Accessed on 10/12/14)
Refn, N (2013) Figure 2. Red Sofa Still. (Accessed on 12/12/14)
Refn, N (2013) Figure 3. Blue Bathroom Still. (Accessed on 12/12/14)

Arikan, A (2013) (Accessed on 12/12/14)

Bradshaw, P (2013) (Accessed on 12/12/14)
Wise, D (s.d.) (Accessed on 12/12/14)

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