Film Review - Only God Forgives


Release date - 2013
Director - Nicolas Winding Refn
Genre - Crime fiction, Thriller, Drama.

Lets begin with a slight summarisation of the film, Julian, A nearly silent, largely unemotive small time crook is played by Ryan Gosling an American dealer living in Bangkok where he runs a Thai boxing club in order to hide his illegal drug dealings. His brother, Billy, a disturbed and psychotic man states that he wants to have sexual encounters with a 14 year old girl, later going on to rape and kills a 16 year old prostitute. This is where the main antagonist shows up, (Vithaya Pansringarm) going by the name Lieutenant Chang, a mysterious policeman who applies his own violent justice in the streets of Bangkok. Lieutenant Chang forces the prostitute’s father to kill Billy before cutting his hand off for having allowed his daughter to sell her body. But when Julian finds the prostitute’s father to avenge his brother’s death, he understands that the man is not the person truly responsible for it. Julian and Billy’s mother, played by Kristin Scott Thomas, leaves America and comes to Bangkok to ask her son to find Billy’s assassins. Seeing the inaction of Julian, she enters into an agreement with Byron (Byron Gibson), a drug leader in Bangkok he has to murder Lieutenant Chang in exchange for a large supply of cocaine. Byron’s assassins fail to kill the Angel, and from this moment the family’s descent into hell.

Julian’s very psychology is far from the confident gangster Hollywood has accustomed us to. Julian’s character does not escape the theme of redemption, but his own quest is more personal, he is uncommunicative, anxious and uncertain, refusing to act because he feels he wouldn’t do the right thing. A prime example of that would be his relationship with a classy prostitute, Mai, as we see in the scene in which Mai slowly attaches him to his chair before performing sexual acts in front of him, Julian never touches Mai sexually, he holds back, as if he was afraid of doing things wrong, to understand the characters restraint more you really have to wait until the dinner scene with Mai, Julian and his mother Crystal to start understanding his restraint, Crystal, harsh and vulgar, clearly insinuates that she had an incestuous relationship with Billy. She thinks that Julian has always been jealous of his brother, almost accusing him of not wanting to avenge him, Julian doesn't react to one vulgar thing that is said but reacts badly to Mai when she questions how he can let her speak to him like that, only stating "because she is my mother".

One of many scenes where Julian stares and his fists, possibly with guilt from what he did to his father.

Julian's restraint and worry to not do anything wrong might be because he is afraid, he killed his own father with his bare hands. explaining his visions, like the one in which he sees his hands covered with blood in his bathroom, his passed actions haunt him because he keeps a slight bit of moral without knowing how to manage it. He is not seeking forgiveness for an action he would define undoubtedly bad, but instead is seeking a meaning to the goodness he has in himself but which is crushed by his irrational violence. He is seeking the balance he’s never had, a way of conduct . which is somewhat shown when he chooses act more like Lieutenant Chang, saving his innocent child and even close to the end taking one of his weapons and using it one his already dead mother.

Or perhaps because of this films surreal and extreme universe where no one is allowed to make mistakes, you're either classed as a criminal, policeman or a civilian. Civilians being obedient immediately become uninteresting, moulding into the set almost. But it clearly shows the directors intention, to highlight the more disruptive characters.

Example of civilians moulding into the set, they are told to close their eyes no matter what they hear, making them some what invisible leaving to focus on the police and the criminal.

Characters aside people's views on the film were very split, unlike the earlier release of Drive (2011) now the two films share a lot of similarities  but one has seemed to rise to success where as Only God Forgives has caused an uproar, Both films seem like there was minimal script written forcing characters to have slow paced conversations and stare at each other for long amount of time. Jonathan Kim is one person who didn't appreciate the dialogue either "When people do speak, it's so slow, stilted, and artificial that there's hardly a single sentence of realistic dialogue in the entire film." (Kim, 2013) But where the script lacks the film is very dramatic in it's colour sense, much like in Suspiria (1977) , much of the film its like you're looking through a deep red filter with the occasional slice of blue for contrast or feel you're sitting in a pitch black room with the characters where only they are seamlessly highlighted by the minimal spots of light. I draw attention again to Jonathan Kim noting the colours, "The saturated color palette, the slow camera moves, the stone-faced, silent hero..." (Kim, 2013). but it seems even if other reviews not the use of colour they still don't agree with how its done "The film was shot in Bangkok, which the cinematographer Larry Smith has lit up like the inside of a Dutch whorehouse." (Arikan, 2013) Only God Forgives is remarkable in a cinematic sense but debatable about the rest.

Prime example of colour palette, deep reds and blue taking over the scene.

Illustration List - 

Figure 1. 'Ryan Gosling Looks... Different on the 'Only God Forgives' Poster' From: Only God Forgives. Directed By: Nicolas Winding Refn. [Film Poster] Denmark, France, Sweden, United States: Radius-TWC, Lionsgate UK. At:http://cdn-media.hollywood.com/images/l/goslingposter.jpg.

Figure 2. 'Only God Forgives' (2013) directed by Nicholas Winding Refn' From:Only God Forgives. Directed By: Nicolas Winding Refn. [Film Still] Denmark, France, Sweden, United States: Radius-TWC, Lionsgate UK. At: www.londoncitynights.com.

Figure 3. 'hqdefault.jpg' From:Only God Forgives. Directed By: Nicolas Winding Refn. [Film Still] Denmark, France, Sweden, United States: Radius-TWC, Lionsgate UK. At: http://i.ytimg.com/vi/MQoxB4zKwHA/hqdefault.jpg.

Figure 4. 'Yes, No, Maybe So: "Only God Forgives" - Blog - The Film Experience'  From:Only God Forgives. Directed By: Nicolas Winding Refn. [Film Still] Denmark, France, Sweden, United States: Radius-TWC, Lionsgate UK. At: http://thefilmexperience.net

Bibliography - 

Arikan, Ali (2013) Only God Forgives From: Only God Forgives. 
In: http://www.rogerebert.com 19.07.13 [online] At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/only-god-forgives-2013 (Accessed on 9.12.14)

Kim, Jonathan (2013) ReThink Review: Only God Forgives - What About DriveNow? From: Only God Forgives. In:http://www.huffingtonpost.com 09.21.13 [online]
At: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-kim/rethink-review-emonly-god_b_3638257.html (Accessed on 9.12.14)

1 comment:

  1. You have put a lot of thought into this review Becky - well done :)