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Tuesday, July 23

Only God Forgives

After a bunch of tedious, unchallenging, predictable movies I did not even bother to review- Passion, The Details, Trouble with the Curve- Only God Forgives (2013) came as quite a change. It made me think that some movies have no purpose other than exorcising some guy's demons. They are not about anything in particular, just one huge opportunity for the director to face his own fears and obsessions. It turns out that we sometimes identify ourselves with his emotions and we tingle with fear, empathy or simply adoration, whereas, on other occasions, we simply fail to see the meaning. Writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn's film is, by no means, a cosy, relaxing, refreshing experience; it is pure violence, sheer hell, a bath of blood and no f*cking explanation. Suffice it to say that watching Only God Forgives was everything I was hoping to get after several bad movie days.

Julian (Ryan Gossling) is the silent brother who runs a boxing club along with his older, sadistic brother, Billy who rapes and kills a 13-year-old prostitute. The police arrives and Lieutenant Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), known as the "Angel of Vengeance", uses the enraged father of the prostitute to beat Billy to death and afterwards, cuts off the father's arm to teach him not to use his daughters as whores. The boys' mother, Crystal, flies all the way from America to identify Billy's corpse and demand vengeance from the younger son. Julian initially refuses to make mommy happy but things are getting bloodier and bloodier and more twisted than ever. How can I deny you the pleasure of watching the rest of the movie yourselves? It is unexpected and won't leave any space for boredom. 


Only God Forgives is a strange combination of David Lynch's weird movies, The Shinning' s twisted surreal visions and Quentin Tarantino's bloody amputation scenes. The club behind the boxing club with its red and black wallpaper, hidden doors and slowly moving characters made me think of Twin Peaks and evil visions. Julian's infatuation with Mai, the entertainer, is eerie and unnatural; it lacks emotions or warmth and you almost feel his desire to get physical with her; yet Julian lacks drive.
I loved Cliff Martinez's slowly pulsating music that sometimes acted as a character itself, replacing unnecessary dialogues and allowing the camera to linger on the other characters' faces. I also appreciated the contrasting scenes where children's innocence was displayed in an attempt to counterbalance the adult craziness. Evil is not entirely wicked unless it has some touching, humane shades. Chang has a sensitive side- he sings for the other policemen and is a caring father to his daughter- but this does not make his actions justifiable, but rather emphasises his cruelty. Bangkok is a mixture of tacky interiors and poverty, of colourful faces and luxurious hotels.


However, my greatest surprise came from mommy dearest, Crystal (Kristen Scott Thomas)- awful, incestuous, vulgar, trashy, heartless, opportunistic, with long, blond, hair, tight dresses and lousy make-up. Abusive, demanding, she reduces Julian to silence, puts him down, yet manipulates him when needed- he doesn't have a huge cock as his late brother, but he killed his father for her sake and he will kill again to protect her. Julian half pleases his mommy and on the occasion of their last encounter, he sneaks his bare hand in her womb as if to make sure she was human after all. Another movie about broken, damaged creatures who are born into violence only to take it to the next level and make it fit like a second skin !