Films and boundaries

When I came out of Nicolas Winding Refn’s ONLY GOD FORGIVES, I hated it and spent the rest of the evening discussing why. But now I’m not so sure. The next day I was still thinking about it – this so often happens with me: aspects of a film start to surface on reflection. There is an austere and apparently meaningless violence which is deliberately, even ponderously the dramatic motor of this film. When you get this kind of stuff with Tarantino it’s stylish and ironic. When you get it with Von Trier, it’s barely sane. But here it began to work on a deeper level, because the whole film seems to me to be about the utter breakdown, if not absence of, family boundaries and the state of hell that ensues. The way Kristin Scott Thomas lets her hand float down Ryan Gosling’s arm (he plays her son) says it all – her maternal love is deeply transgressive and the demands she makes of him translate into the cul de sac of violence – both emotional and physical, throughout. Do we need this film to tell us that all families need boundaries? Well, as far as my own film-making is concerned, this is definitely a core theme and as far as ONLY GOD FORGIVES is concerned, I’m beginning to admire its dismembering approach to the same.

The other stand-out film for me this week was Werner Herzog’s 1974 masterpiece, THE ENIGMA OF KASPAR HAUSER. I am a great admirer of that 1970s bundle of German directors from the first time around. I could always be found at the Camden Plaza in utter admiration of the output of Herzog, Fassbinder, Wenders and Schlondorff. KASPAR HAUSER, only gets better with time. I am transfixed by the simple beauty and power of Bruno S. playing KASPAR. The way he acquires the language of the world and simultaneously remains outside it is moving and strange. I’m reminded of Lynch’s THE ELEPHANT MAN, which I also love.

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