After sitting in LA traffic for two hours, I was happy to arrive at the fest right at 6pm when the open bar began. After I picked up my ticket to the gala screening and had a drink, I walked over to the Regal Cinemas to get my seat at Only God Forgives. In case you don’t keep up with independent film as much as myself, this film was highly anticipated… and then was booed at Cannes. Now, I don’t think it necessarily deserved that, but it is FAR my mainstream. The film was both written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, a Danish director who also brought us Drive. He teamed up with Ryan Gosling for this film, which definitely adds to the anticipation, and Cliff Martinez (who brought us that crazy good score in Drive). These gala screenings take place in a HUGE theatre with a HUGE screen. Unfortunately, they reserve pretty much the whole middle section, so no matter how early you arrive, you have to sit in the back, front, or off to the side. Now my BIGGEST pet peeve happens much more frequently in these situations: People who save seats at film festivals. Listen, if your friend/coworker/wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever does not arrive on time, then that is their fault. This is a film festival, not a Friday night in the movies. I think you guys can handle sitting separately. Sundance has a rule about seat saving, and I wish LA Film Fest would enforce this as well. I also sat next to a man who was very friendly and interesting to talk to before the film began; however, after the film began, he kept talking. He also took out his cell phone during the show. WHAT?! Who does that? WHO?! And worst of all, he turns to me after the film and asks me, “What did you think?” I hate hate hate talking about films right after I see them. How am I supposed to form an opinion about a film the second the credits start rolling. Only God Forgives was a wild ride. Why don’t you give me an hour, or a few, or a few days to decide what I thought. This wasn’t World War Z or Superman we just watched.
Anyway, the film. Nicolas Winding Refn gave us a brief introduction and told us that if Drive was really good cocaine, then Only God Forgives is acid, like the really old kind of acid. The film was definitely a trip. The lighting was red and the composition was full of shadows. To be honest, the mise-en-scene as a whole was pretty incredible. The film has almost no dialogue whatsoever. I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me Ryan Gosling had maybe 10 lines throughout the film. Nicolas said that he directed his actors to move and stare as if they were asleep. I love a film that will show me rather than tell me a story. It is so difficult to pull off and I think Nicolas captured it in a very unique way. I haven’t seen anything like this. Even though the actors were quiet, the score was not. Cliff Martinez created a score that was very similar to Drive and it was LOUD. I walked out of the film with a headache, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Nicolas used a lot of symbolism in the film as well. There were definitely some mother/son sexual tension issues and I know my film theory professor would have a field day with this conflict. Nicolas also spoke of writing the film as “a Western set in Asia.” All in all, it is a revenge story… and there is a lot of blood. Would I recommend my family and friends to see it? Absolutely not. Would I recommend my film major/ independent film lover friends to check it out? Of course.