Published on April 8th, 2015 | by Allan Brown0
My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn Review
Movie Review: My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (2015)
Running Time: 58 mins
Director: Liv Corfixen
Writer: Liv Corfixen
Cast: Nicolas Winding Refn, Liv Corfixen, Ryan Gosling, Alejandro Jodorowsky
When Liv Corfixen gracefully agreed to support her husband on his latest 6 month film-making venture in Thailand, she made the shrewd decision to film and document his full creative process, through all its transitions. That project was Only God Forgives, and her film-making spouse, the uncompromising Nicolas Winding Refn. The result is a fascinating glimpse into the mind of one of the most prolific film directors of a generation, as he battles to bring his latest project to life.
Refn is, and always will be, a director who splits an audience. His pictures are rifled with metaphor and ambiguity and are led by theme rather than exposition or narrative. As a result, they often present a real visual challenge, requiring the audience to work hard to decipher their true meaning. This uncompromising determination to stay true to one’s own unique vision, regardless of commercial appeal, casts Refn as a true auteur. However in 2011, Refn released Drive starring Ryan Gosling. The film was an instant global hit and seemed to balance his unique style as an artist but in a more commercially accessible film. Drive went on to win countless awards and accolades becoming Refn’s most commercial and biggest box office success to date. While the success and global embrace of the film was certainly welcomed by the director, it also set the benchmark for what audiences would expect and compare all future work too.
The shadow of Drive and the outside pressure of expectation to create a “Drive 2” type film, collides with the creative artist who is used to having the freedom and full creative control over the films he himself wants to make. Refn wants to be successful, but he doesn’t want to give up his creative principles or do what is expected of him, in place of commercial viability. And while he seems to intentionally dig himself into a non-commercial grave with Only God Forgives, the internal struggles and on-going anguish he feels throughout its production is laid bare for all to see, and Corfixen does not miss a beat.
The film itself sits somewhere between a making off documentary and a personal collection of family home videos. It catalogues Refn’s struggle to balance family life with two young children in a small apartment in Bangkok, whilst trying to figure out the film he has committed himself to making. He is passionate about the project, no question, but his fragility is shown when he perceives how the film may be received. This internal turmoil is fascinating to watch as Refn’s jumps from being confident with the goal in sight one minute, to declaring he has lost all sense of what the film is about the very next. Clearly Refn’s journey here is a difficult one, and his continuing battle with his emotional believe in the project at hand, is at times a heart-breaking and distressing viewing. His personal angst and self belief in the project he has wrestled with for 3 years never seems to dissipate, or get any easier for him, or indeed his family. “You’re not an easy man to share a home with” declares his wife on more than one occasion.
In the end, despite Only God Forgives spitting opinion with both critics and audiences alike, Corfixen’s candid documentary showcases the unbridled passion and commitment (in all its guises) of an artist who really does take his work home with him. This is perhaps the reason Refn has garnered the reputation as one of the finest auteurs of today.
Summary: A fascinating and painfully honest insight into the mind of one of the most prolific film directors of a generation.