I’ve decided I’m a fan of Nicholas Winding Refn.

The Danish film director is a bit of a controversial figure due to the fact his films tend to sit firmly on the ‘obscure, arty, pretentious’ side of the cinematographic spectrum.

I’m usually not the type to indulge in arthouse-type films (heck, I professed my love for that most obscene example of Hollywood-blockbusterism: Transformers 2) but I’ve now seen three of Winding Refn’s films, and I love them all.

My first exposure to Winding Refn’s work was the critically acclaimed Drive, featuring truly superb performance from its lead actors as well as some scenes of brutal, unglorified, unstylised violence.


Recently I caught Valhalla Rising on TV, and its hypnotic mood, surreal plot, and anticlimactic finale, all contributed to a cinematic experience that I enjoyed profoundly. Mikkelsen is astounding in the lead role and manages to captive and intimidate without speaking a single word in the entire film. The film is now sitting near the top of my top 10 all time favourites.

Valhalla Rising

Then earlier this week I saw Only God Forgives, and once again I was mesmerised. At first I thought the film indulged a bit too much in those dialogue-less scenes where the actors brood intensely, but as the plot unfolded I realised those scenes are significant and serve to expose inner turmoil hinted at in later scenes. And the ending is, in typical Winding Refn fashion, entirely un-Hollywood and deeply unsatisfying and, because of that, paradoxically, very much satisfying.

Only God Forgives

Obscure and pretentious? Yes. Powerful? Very much so.

His style is not for everyone. I do think he’s one of those directors whose output you genuinely either love or hate. There’s not much room for fence-sitting where his films are concerned.

But for me, to date, I’m firmly in the ‘love it’ camp, eagerly awaiting his next cinematic endeavour.