Fig. 1. Only God Forgives poster.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s Only God Forgives (2013) is an intensely stylized film that lacks a coherent narrative. Refn uses strong lighting choices to create an environment that feels out of this world, it’s a shame that the story doesn’t add to the strong style. It is possible that this is a film that should be mostly viewed for how beautiful the setting is, even though it’s filled with excessive bloodshed.
Fig. 2. Lighting still.
Refn creates a world that isn’t what we expect to see, it’s a highly stylized world that is beautiful to look at. As Sexton points out in his review ‘Bangkok at night is made to look infernally coloured, soaked in red and neon.’ (Sexton, 2013). Sexton notes that Refn fills what is meant to be Bangkok with intense colours like red, It appears that the colour choices reflect the brutality of the film. The reds are overpowering at night when acts of rape and murder are happening, the lighting becomes a true reflection of the twisted minds of the characters that inhabit the world. Refn uses the stylish world to capture the viewer’s attention.
Fig. 3. Mother still.
Refn’s environment contradicts the narrative as the environment is quite immersive, whereas the narrative tries to alienate the viewer. As Hainline says in his review ‘Only God Forgives is more about sensory immersion than about character-building or strict storytelling.’ (Hainline, 2014). Hainline suggest that the environment is used as an immersive factor, where the characters and narrative don’t immerse the viewer. The characters are used more to alienate the viewer; with hardly any dialogue the film relies on its strong visuals to immerse the viewer.
Another feature of the film that is strong is the soundtrack, it works well with the strong visuals to make the limited narrative watchable. ‘Coupled with Cliff Martinez’s buzzing, lowly pulsating music, it’s distracting and nulling. Yet the lighting, production design and score are by far the film’s most artful elements.’ (Calhoun, 2013). This suggests that the film itself is held together by its visuals and the soundtrack. It successfully creates tension when its required and even helps transition through the narrative.
Overall the films plot is very loose and limited, it requires highly on its stylised environment to capture the viewer’s attention. Excessive blood and gore fills the screen as red as the extreme lighting used, it’s not a film for the faint hearted.
Refn, N W. (2013). Figure 1. Only God Forgives poster. http://www.heyuguys.com/images/2013/06/Only-God-Forgives-Character-Poster-Ryan-Gosling.jpg (Accessed on 11/12/2014)
Refn, N W. (2013). Figure 2. Lighting still. http://screenmusings.org/movie/blu-ray/Only-God-Forgives/images/Only-God-Forgives-038.jpg (Accessed on 11/12/2014)
Refnm, N W. (2013). Figure 3. Mother still. http://www.dewmagazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/only-god-forgives-7.jpg (Accessed on 11/12/2014)
Calhoun, D. (2013). timeout.com. http://www.timeout.com/london/film/only-god-forgives (Accessed on 11/12/2014)
Hainlin, R. (2014). moivemezzanine.com. http://moviemezzanine.com/laff-the-hainline-diaries/ (Accessed on 11/12/2014)
Sexton, D. (2013). standard.co.uk. http://www.standard.co.uk/goingout/film/only-god-forgives--film-review-8743172.html (Accessed on 11/12/2014)