Interview: Nicolas Winding Refn from "Only God Forgives"

Photo Credit: © 2011 - FilmDistrict
October 22nd, 2013

The extremely talented director Nicolas Winding Refn has been emotionally straining audiences for years with films like “Valhalla Rising”, “Drive”, and his latest “Only God Forgives”.  In preparation for the release of “Only God Forgives” on October 22nd, the world famous director was kind enough to sit down with Movie Room Reviews and talk about the new Blu Ray.

Nick Leyland from Movie Room Reviews: Hey, thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.

Nicolas Winding Refn: Absolutely.

MRR:  'Only God Forgives' comes out on Blu-ray, October 22nd. It's an extremely interesting film in so many ways. Could you tell me what made you wanna write a film like this and what steps did you take to ensure that it would transfer well to the big screen?

Nicolas Winding Refn: Well, I don't always know [chuckle] why I do what I do. It just kind of evolves that way, or it's an act of violence and [chuckle] comes with the movie.

MRR: Why did you settle on Bangkok as a culture for the setting of the film?

Nicolas Winding Refn: Well we had gone to Bangkok, my family and I, for a few times just on vacation, and we really liked the city. And I knew that I could get a lot of value for unlimited budget, you know. [chuckle] But I think it was really seeing the city at night that I began to see that there was element to make a film here. It's like, in a way, it's a supernatural country at night because it becomes very Asian, very Thai, and it just becomes very intoxicating.

MRR: And the film shows that it's a beautifully well-shot film. And in a way, I felt like it's somewhat like a silent film because of the small amount of dialog than what you're used to. Why did you choose to do that and how much does that put on the actors' shoulders?

Nicolas Winding Refn: Well,  I've been quite interested in silence lately in my last three movies. And I've gone from Valhalla Rising to Drive to Only God Forgives. So you can say silence is very much the sound of them. And of course it puts a huge burden on the actors because when you take away their speech, it’s like taking away their primal tool. And so other elements are what they need to rely on in terms of their performances. So it becomes very interesting that you take something away and you kinda have to find a way to still express the same emotions. But, you know, they did it in the silent movie days, so it's just we're so used to dialog nowadays.

MRR: Ryan (Gosling) has done such a great job in films, especially the two he's worked on with you, with Drive and this one, he can say so much without ever opening his mouth, I feel like.

Nicolas Winding Refn: Well, he's unique in that sense. He has this gift of just being able to flow with the work in a way, his physicality, the way he moves. And it's a true sign of fantastic acting. It's what you would give to silent film stars. It's what they had. Like, the camera then becomes entangled in one. It's just very interesting to see how it unfolds.

MRR: And with the lack of dialog, you had such wonderful music in the film. It was such beautifully written and placed. It acts as almost the emotional train of the film. Was this Cliff Martinez' work who also did Drive and did that go beyond your expectations?

Nicolas Winding Refn: I don't know if it went over my expectations. It's just, Cliff is brilliant at what he does. If you work with someone, it works out, why stop?


MRR: The one scene that I really loved was the fight scene between Julian and Chang because it was so opposite from what I expected to see. It kind of makes you question, more than any other film that I've seen, kind of who the good guy is, if there is one at all. Was there a reason that you made fault in every character and why did you choose to focus on Julian and not Chang?

Nicolas Winding Refn: Well, you can say Julian is essentially the man who is on a journey, I guess... So many elements and you can kinda say that it's his journey towards the inevitable, which is this man who both exist on a metaphysical level and a physical level. And so it's very much about Julian's journey towards his final confrontation with his mother. But in order to do that, he needs to basically enter the world of this particular Lieutenant.

MRR: It's a beautiful film and every character you have was amazing. One question I wanna ask you was, has modern technology helped directors make better films or is it giving directors too many options that could hurt their film?

Nicolas Winding Refn: I believe technology only enhances creativity, but, of course, the more it enhances it, the harder it is to actually do. If that makes sense.

MRR: What will audiences get with this new Blu-ray package that's coming out on October 22nd? Is there gonna be interviews?

Nicolas Winding Refn: Just a hell of a good time [laughter] with a few extras on it, of course. And it has all those elements that being a fan boy myself, this is what you want to have on it. [laughter] And I'm doing an audio commentary and so forth. So it has all those classic ingredients which makes it worth it. I'm such a huge collector of Blu-rays that you have to also give it some spice.

MRR: Alright. Well, I got the new Blu-ray and I think it's fantastic and I enjoyed watching it. And I thank you so much for your time and hopefully, everyone will go out and purchase the Blu-ray on October 22nd.

Nicolas Winding Refn: Thank you very, very much.