Only God Forgives, directed by Nicholas Winding Refn, has had a mixed reception. What it makes up for in strong visual style many people find it lacks in character interaction and emotion. I personally think that the over formalisation of the speech and characters adds to the idea of being desensitised to death- everyone in the film is playing a big game. A reviewer from The Telegraph says “The film’s characters are non-people; the things they say to each other are non-conversations, the events they enact are non-drama.” (Colin, 2013). I would describe the characters more as having a mutual knowledge of human nature in it’s animalistic and none animalistic forms. The conversations in the film feel disjointed as if no one is really listening to each other, perhaps because all the words are meaningless and have to be said in order for the films destiny to be fulfilled. The tone with which the characters talk makes viewers rethink the relationship between thought and verbalisation.
The angles used in the film have similar effect. The symmetry (Fig 1) is alienating- not in a way that makes you constantly realise you’re are watching a film, more in a way that makes you feel you should be looking at all the horrific violence you are surrounded with in a logical manner like the characters in the film. “The Kubrick influence is the most obvious, in Refn’s use of mise-en-scene, camera movement, spare sound design, blocking, color and score. Refn frames his shots mainly with the subject in the centre of a frame that is symmetrical not only in composition but within its own production design” (Johnson, 2013). Linking to Kubrick is relevant to many aspects of this film in it’s non fantasy surrealism, with the use of language, cinematography-and colour.
|(Fig 1) Formal symmetrical dinner scene|
Colour plays a big part in the film, It has an easily recognisable colourscape heavily influenced by neon culture in Bangkok, where the film is set. The bright colours of the night-time scenes seem to suggest the strong, raw human emotion- a theme throughout the film (Fig 2), with the darkness and shadows surrounding them- similar to the dark patches and pasts of nearly every character that leads them into such strong violent and sexual situations. Red is used a lot throughout the film- In and interview, when asked about this Refn said “Red is, on one level, a very frightening image, because it's what we would look at if we were to open up ourselves. And yet, it's also very erotic.” (Refn , 2013). This is a contrast to the colourscape used in the home of Chang, a retired cop – A character who represents justice and old values. In his home and the surrounding areas earthy yellows, browns and greens are used. A contrast made even starker when appearing straight after a scene in neon late night Bangkok.
Colin, R (2013) Only God Forgives, Review for The Times at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/film/filmreviews/10073237/Only-God-Forgives-review.html
Johnson, CJ (2013) Review of Only God Forgives for ABC Local at: http://www.abc.net.au/nightlife/stories/3803442.htm
Refn, NW (2013) Interview with Osenlund R.K for Slant Magazine at: http://www.slantmagazine.com/features/article/interview-nicolas-winding-refn-2013
(Fig 1) Still from Only God Forgives at: http://www.focusfilm.co.uk/review-only-god-forgives-forgiveness-sympathy-2541
(Fig 2) Still from Only God Forgives at: http://dcfilmgirl.com/only-god-forgives-review/