Only God Forgives: A misunderstood masterpiece 5/5

Only God Forgives: A misunderstood masterpiece 5/5
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Imran Jabbar

Imran Jabbar is a journalism graduate from Sheridan College. He has gained much experience and expertise through travelling and the journalism program. He specializes in audio and video production, reporting, photography and design. His interests include film, the environment, music and art.

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The most impressive movie of the year is also the most controversial, divisive and unjustly panned.

Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn floats back into our lives after leaving the bittersweet taste of 2011’s best film, Drive, on the tip of our tongues. This time Refn shows us another dreamy vision that strays closer to his notable elements of film, yet shoots far beyond. It’s called Only God Forgives and no, it is nothing like Drive.

Ryan Gosling stars as Julian Thompson in Only God Forgives

Ryan Gosling stars as Julian Thompson in Only God Forgives

The story follows Julian Thompson (Ryan Gosling), a damaged drug smuggler striving in Bangkok who manages a Muay Thai boxing club as a front for his criminal operations. After Julian’s older brother Billy (Tom Burke) is murdered by the initiation of a much-respected police officer, Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm), he is pressed by his Mafioso mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) to avenge his brother’s death. Through his discoveries, Julian embarks on a spiritual journey when gaining an obsession for Chang and his way of justice. Julian searches for redemption and desperately feels the need to face his sins in order to ultimately break free from the prolonged guilt of his past.

With Only God Forgives, Refn crafts together a cinematic work of art which is the perfect example of true art house cinema. The film itself moves like poetry, accompanied with a sinister yet hypnotic soundtrack to enhance the storytelling, as well as abstract lighting. Every shot and frame of cinematography is executed with expertise and brilliance, making Only God Forgives one of the most beautiful films to look at. This also tells us that 100% of the film is how the director intended us to witness his vision. The subjective perspective from the audience plays a major purpose in a film like this for everything is on the screen for a reason. The colours are arousing and vibrant.  The camera placement as well as balance is reminiscent to the films of Stanley Kubrick.

The film essentially takes place in a world nowhere close to ours, but in a heightened reality, or in other words, a fairy tale realm. Only God Forgives is consumed with revelations, fantasies, mythology, religion, metaphors and nightmare. It touches on themes following the consequences of abnormal parenting, and the mystical search for salvation and forgiveness.

Of all the metaphors and symbolism in the film, the most prominent is Chang who is ultimately god, laying down the order of his own method of retribution. Thai actor Vithaya Pansringarm gives off an eerie and electrifying performance in the role, convincing us that he’s the real deal.

only-god-forgives-posterWith a film that supplies such quality, the negative reception is preposterous. But although panned, Refn’s intentions did get through to the audience. Whatever they felt about the movie, they sure felt strong about it.

This is a film that allows the interpretation of hundreds of different plot points, making the audience think and realize, rather than having their hands held throughout the experience. Only God Forgives is to be understood and discussed for anyone could have a drastically different outlook on it, much like religion. It’s a film where we can choose what to believe in, as we examine and analyze the divine journey we embark on as the picture moves forward.

Refn departed the mainstream spotlight of Drive and went back to the vision he was conveying with his prior work entitled Valhalla Rising. In Only God Forgives, Refn presents us with alienated characters, a sleek and glimmering style, as well as a pace that requires patience and an open mind.

Much of Hollywood audiences were introduced to Refn from the critically successful Drive. Unpredictable to this side of the cinder, Refn took Only God Forgives in the opposite direction, granting us the kind work he is ultimately known for. Experimental. The main language in the film may be English, but it is essentially a foreign film.

With a budget of only $4.8 million, Refn is able to create a mesmerizing atmosphere, which proves to the art of cinema that he is truly a pioneer.

This is a dark and important movie that strips one bare in regard to their experiences with generic film.

Go see Only God Forgives. It is an experience like no other and god knows if we will ever get another.



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