Monday, November 04, 2013

Film: "Only God Forgives" [2013]

This is another music-heavy film, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. It is set in Bangkok and stars Ryan Gosling, the human corgi. Or rather, he is the best-known actor in it. You could argue that the actual main character is some Thai guy who plays a local detective, but as he is not famous in the West it is Gosling who gets top billing. It also features Kristin Scott Thomas in a stunning performance as the Gosling character's terrifying mother.

The film is driven by murder and revenge but has an abstracted feel that stops the narrative being its main focus. Instead we get a lot of long scenes shot with unusual camera angles while the dark ambient music of Cliff Martinez plays at us. Dream sequences (not featuring dwarfs) merge into or prefigure reality. Cops go to karaoke bars and sing songs. People do not say very much (Gosling utters some 17 lines in the course of the entire film). Acts of horrific violence occur, but often portrayed in a manner that engenders a certain detachment from them.

The Thai cop (played by Vithaya Pansringarm) is the most active character. He is also ambiguous, a man who clearly has a strongly developed sense of justice and honour, but one that is no barrier to his using torture to extract information or to his murdering suspects rather than bringing them before the court system. The Gosling character and his brother are drøg dealers, with the brother committing some misdemeanours that lead to the cop engineering his death. The brother's mother flies in and demands that the Gosling character avenges his brother's death, though he is initially reluctant to do this, explaining to his mother that the brother had it coming.

JULIAN: It's not that simple. He raped and murdered an underage prostitute.

CRYSTAL: Well he must have had his reasons.

In another charming scene the mother explains to Julian's "girlfriend" that Julian was always jealous of his brother because the brother had a bigger cock.

As you can imagine, by the end of the film nearly all the characters are dead. In its horrific violence and obsession with violent retribution it reminded me of one of those great Jacobean tragedies of revenge. The additional element Only God Forgives is the disorienting effect of the cinematography and music. I recommend it highly and have since then derived much enjoyment from the soundtrack album.

Poster image source

Corgi or Ryan Gosling?

An inuit panda production

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