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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives is a visually stylistic and flamboyant film, but fails deplorably with its plot and narrative. With its blinding and extravagant use of neon colours, and a haunting anticipatory soundtrack, Only God Forgives fails to make the audience participate. The movie fails on all counts to satiate the emotional needs of a revenge tale; there is no scope for empathy for the viewers.  

Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn makes Only God Forgives about Julian’s, played by Ryan Gosling private purgatory. As an expatriate from the US, Julian and his brother Billy, operates a shady Muay Thai boxing club in Bangkok. The boxing club is however a side business and the real money comes from drug trade. Julian is the broody and the introspective anti-hero of the movie while Billy is exactly the opposite. His fantasies of rough sex with underage girls get him killed. Thus enters Lieutenant Chang, a police officer with a God complex, who hands Billy over to the father of the underage prostitute he raped and killed. It almost seems that Chang is a supernatural being. Most of the scenes in the movie are at night, which heightens its surrealism and allows Refn to indulge plentifully in the neon. The scenes are bathed in red and blue, acting complimentary to each other instead of being opposites. 

Kristin Scott Thomas plays Crystal, the mafia matriarch, who flies down to identify the body of her “first born.” She takes us back to the Shakespearean tragedies of Hamlet and Macbeth, possessing the same ruthlessness of Lady Macbeth while making use of the same oedipal attraction that Julian feels for Crystal which Hamlet felt for Gertrude asking him to protect her from any impending danger. The sexual innuendos are not subtle between mother and son, especially when Crystal buries her face in Julian’s navel and then later orders him to kiss his mother. She begins by seducing him, then belittling his manhood and finally tries to destroy him.

 Ryan Gosling as Julian is the perfect Hamlet to Crystal’s Gertrude. He bears all the admonitions and depreciating with almost graceful impassiveness, while trying to make her proud by fighting Lieutenant Chang, who almost beats Julian to a pulp. Gosling has only seventeen lines in the movie; he is the near silent anti-hero of the movie, who spins a surrealist yarn in his subconscious with Chang in it, while trying to cope with his psychopathic and dysfunctional family. There is a particular stoicism in Gosling that is unparalleled. 

Only God Forgives moves at a very slow pace, it almost glides; interlaced with awkward silences and blank stares in the black void, the movie switches between Julian’s reality and dream world. The movie is thoroughly packaged with a wonderful soundtrack and stunningly alluring visuals, but in the core is nothing but hollow.

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