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by Nigel M Smith
May 22, 2013 10:43 AM
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'Only God Forgives' Director Nicolas Winding Refn at Cannes: 'I have a fetish for violent images' (No Kidding)

Nicolas Winding Refn might have expressed disdain in 2011 for Lars von Trier's infamous Nazi remarks at Cannes, but the fellow Danish auteur is no less a provocateur, as evidenced both by his bleak, ultra-violent Palme d'Or contender "Only God Forgives," which premiered this morning at the festival, and some comments made at the film's press conference.

READ MORE: Kristin Scott Thomas Talks 'Only God Forgives' at Cannes: 'This kind of film is really not my thing'

In the film, Ryan Gosling plays a young American living in exile in Bangkok who sets out to avenge his murdered brother at the behest of his menacing mother (a feisty Kristin Scott Thomas). Like Refn's last film "Drive," "Only God Forgives" features a shot of a crushed skull, but that's nothing compared to a hard to watch sequence where a man's eyes are stabbed in gruesome closeup among other violent acts.

"Art is an act of violence."

"Art is an act of violence," Refn said when asked why his films feature such extreme imagery. "Art is about penetration. Art is about speaking to our subconscious and our needs on different levels."

"I approach things very much like a pornographer," he continued. "It's about what arouses people. Certain things turn me on more than other stuff. I can't suppress that need; that's how it usually ends up like that.

"I don't consider myself a very violent man. But I have a fetish for violent emotions, violent images; I can't explain where it comes from. I do believe that through art it's a way to exercise certain things in you, and for the viewer it's the reverse. Let's not forget that human beings were created for violence. Our body parts were created for violence mostly based on instinctual needs to survive. We have a spiritual need for it that we exercise."


  • Sean | January 11, 2014 1:14 PMReply

    This is the logical end of art for anyone who fully embraces evolution as absolute truth. If we are who we are because we were violent enough to survive this long, then of course violence is the best emotion, the best action to celebrate in art.

  • jessie | May 22, 2013 6:46 PMReply

    What a bunch of self-centered garbage. We don't need to watch his movie-made violence, just
    watch the news.

  • Marianne | May 22, 2013 5:52 PMReply

    i agree with ambulantic

  • ambulantic | May 22, 2013 1:24 PMReply

    i'm starting to really lose my affection for refn. all spice, no flavor. and from his comments, it's starting to really seem like his films do actually have as little to say as they seem. i love his technical abilities and his aesthetics are nearly unparalleled but junk food only tastes good because it doesn't have any other value.

  • Dir | January 4, 2014 6:59 PM

    Film is a visual medium. All that matters is aesthetics. Narrative is for novels.

  • Troy | May 22, 2013 11:23 AMReply

    I think the film's title is "Only God Forgives." You might wanna fix that headline.

  • Indiewire | May 22, 2013 11:29 AM

    Oy... thanks. Cannes fatigue has officially set in.

  • Michael M. | May 22, 2013 10:50 AMReply

    What a concise and fearless man. Never afraid to speak his mind or his beliefs.