Thursday, 12 December 2013

Only God Forgives (2013) Film Review Nicholas Winding Refn

Only God Forgives (2013) Film Review Nicholas Winding Refn 

Figure 1

Only God Forgives is a crime/thriller film directed by Nicholas Winding Refn in 2013, which recieved many mixed reviews. The plot of the film follows an American drug smuggler living in Bangkok who comes into many conflicts with a local police officer after the death of his brother.
Colour and lighting is one the main factors that make this film stand out from start to finish. Throughout, we are thrown into masses of bright neon colours mostly of blues and reds. This makes every scene so much more interesting; due to the lack of dialogue, we are given time to admire every inch of the frame cast in these almost futuristic lights, as seen in Figure 2. Damon Wise describes the colours as the "neon sleaze of Bangkok both dangerous and beautiful, everything is bathed in disorientating primary colours". (Wise, 2013). One reason why the repetition of red and blue colours is perhaps to represent conflict. This could be between the main character, Julian and the Bangkok cop, or between Julian and his mother. Whichever, these two colours are seen throughout the film from the very start, such as the opening boxing match where the two opponents are wearing blue and red. Theses two colours are even shown in the poster, seen in  Figure 1. 

Figure 2

Although in this film we experience horrific scenes of violence such as a man being tortured by being stabbed in both his eyeballs, there is also a comedy value to the this film. From time to time we experience scenes "with bizarre setpieces of sentimentality and nauseous black comedy" (Bradshaw, 2013). This relating to the scenes of the Bangkok cop taking part in karaoke in a small bar, seen in Figure 3. These scenes usually occur after the cop has brutally killed one of his victims and so gives the idea that the karaoke is placed to try to lighten the mood of the film considering what has just taken place. There is something very strange and funny about a middle age Bangkok police officer calmly singing karaoke after committing a horrendous murder.

Figure 3

There are also many Freudian links based around Only God Forgives. This mainly revolves around Julian's relationship with his mother, Crystal. There are many links to Freud's theories such as the competition to be the mothers favorite son; "Julian and his brother Billy's relationship with their mother is entirely Freudian in nature, from the basic castration complex (Crystal, their mother, taunts Julian by comparing the size of his penis to his brother's)" (Hayes, 2013). We are also shown many other hints to Freud's theories such as we are told that Julian had killed his father back when he was living in the US. 

Figure 4


Wise, D (2013) Only God Forgives Film Review, (Accessed on 12/12/13)

Bradshaw, P (2013) Only God Forgives (2013) Only God Forgives Review, In: The Guardian [online], (Accessed on 12/12/13)

Hayes, B (2013) Only God Forgives is Uncannily Freudian, (Accessed on 12/12/13)


Figure 1, Only God Forgives (2013) Nicholas Winding Refn [Film Poster] Dennmark/Thailand, A Grand Elephant, (Accessed on 12/12/13)

Figure 2, Only God Forgives (2013) Nicholas Winding Refn [Film Still] Dennmark/Thailand, A Grand Elephant, (Accessed on 12/12/13)

Figure 3, Only God Forgives (2013) Nicholas Winding Refn [Film Still] Dennmark/Thailand, A Grand Elephant, (Accessed on 12/12/13)

Figure 4, Only God Forgives (2013) Nicholas Winding Refn [Film Still] Dennmark/Thailand, A Grand Elephant, (Accessed on 12/12/13)

1 comment:

  1. A good review Will :)
    Another reason the 'lighter' moments of the film are there, could also be to make the violence seem more horrific perhaps?

    Good that you are starting to link themes within the film to some of the ideas you are learning about in your theory lectures... maybe you could also have talked about the Oedipus Complex, when you mention that Julian killed his father?

    Don't forget that your bibliography needs to be organised alphabetically by the author's surname, so in your case, Bradshaw, Hayes and Wise, in that order.