Sunday, 4 August 2013

Only God Forgives

I know I haven't blogged in a while, but hey, I'm blogging now. I guess I set myself a target that was too much and curtailed, but I'll try something a bit more manageable from now on.

With this in mind, yesterday I went to see the new Refn movie, Only God Forgives. It was pretty damn amazing. In fact, it's by far and away the best film I've seen this year, and the second masterpiece after Edgar Wright's The World's End.

For reasons involving me being under 18, the film being rated 18, and Devon+Cornwall Film not wanting to be shut down, I can't post my review on there- so I figured I might as well plop it here, where I have relative anonymity and I can deny everything afterwards.

Here's the review;

What a film this is! A gruelling, thrilling, beautiful and very powerful piece of absolutely gorgeous cinema that is both masterful and one of the most oppressive films I have ever seen. Much like Vithaya Pansringarm’s coldly methodical bent police officer Chang, it is merciless and takes no prisoners. This is a film that shows you the most horrific scenes of violence (that rank amongst the most affecting and nasty I’ve seen) and dares you to justify their existence in this bold, frightening vision. It is a film that overwhelms you and leaves you staggering out of the cinema in a heightened daze.

The plot in this film is thin/negligible, but films don’t always need a narrative to be gripping, and much like last years’ masterpiece The Master, this is one of those films. This is a film not about a plot, but about people, and whilst the story, regarding a mother who flies to Bangkok after her paedophilic, psychopath son is murdered, provides some kind of mechanism for the action, I found myself more and more as the film went on looking at scenes in relation to the characters- what they meant, as opposed to why they were there. This is clearly a film in which things are out of kilter, and the line between narrative and nightmare gets ever closer as it goes on, in part due to the terrifying dream sequences, and primarily due to the fact that the slight narrative itself starts to resemble a nightmare itself.

If this film sounds difficult, then don’t get me wrong, it really is, but it also a magnificently made masterwork that is scored and shot to perfection, containing a soundtrack so good you could watch this film with your eyes closed and still be gripped, and certain shots and sequences of such breath-taking beauty and power that they left me breathless. A lot of people are going to go into this expecting Drive 2 (and a lot of people are going to be very disappointed), but really this is more like Bronson, with its neon hues and shocking bursts of ultra-violence.

More than technically, however, the film is working on a deeper and more profound thematic level that I admired most of all. This is a film about mothers, sons, relationships, the nature of violence, shame and guilt. It is a cinematic challenge, and I found the way it affronted traditional notions of screen violence to be noble- the violence in this film is horrible, and it is challenging you to stay, and ultimately it makes you question why you’re watching this violence at all, much like Michael Haneke’s Funny Games, another masterpiece I greatly admire. One sequence in particular involving chopsticks had me covering my eyes. But it redeems it by being so beautiful, so rich, so heart-breaking.

The relationship between Ryan Gosling’s Julian, and Kristin Scott-Thomas’ Crystal, his mother, is at the core of the film, however, and what a troubled relationship it is indeed- this film goes sincerely Freudian as it goes on, detailing with chilling precision the nature of a mother’s power over a son, what happens when she is willing to use that to her own end, and the feelings of shame, guilt, inadequacy and powerlessness that follow in said son. Those who have criticised this film for being one-dimensional have missed vital things, in my opinion. The film contains many shots of the characters staring, impassively, but it also contains many actions, and all one needs to do is think about the impact of those actions on the other characters, and you’ll find that the film is actually a very thematically rich experience. It is about that feeling of dread that occurs when you realise that the worst possible event you could think of is about to become a reality. It is about many things. It is about people.

This film is clearly not for everyone, now much you gain from this film can be roughly dictated by how much you’re willing to analyse a film, how much you’re willing to accept screen violence and intensely sustained feelings of unease, and how much you can appreciate true craftsmanship. I did all those things and came away feeling enriched.

This is ultimately a tragic film. From the start, it is clear that the characters are all in free-fall, doomed to some truly nasty fates. But how far they fall, and what happens when they land, mark for unexpectedly moving territory. This summed up perfectly in the scenes where Chang, having just delivered his gruesome “justice”, takes to the karaoke floor to deliver his melancholic renditions of Thai pop songs in front of the devoted police force. Quite exactly what those scenes mean eludes me, but I found the juxtaposition of violence and singing thrilling, touching, horrifying and uneasy. No matter which way you slice it, this undeniable film is a magnificently made masterpiece that will no doubt endure as it slowly finds the audience it deserves. For now, it is the best film I have seen this year.


So yeah. I know loads of people are hating on this flick, but I don't know why. It's fucking incredible!

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