Artist Inspiration – Nicholas Winding Refn

Artist Influence, Artist Influences, Studio, Uncategorized

After looking into the way that violent narratives unfold in the work of David Lynch, where the most graphic violence unrolls and is hinted at to the audience rather than overtly shown, I wanted to look at another film maker who approaches violent narratives from a different standpoint. Nicholas Winding Refn is a Danish director who creates visually lavish films which always depict violence as something glamourised, however there is little glamour in the narratives of his work. The framing and visual language of his films may be beautiful, and the violence depicted may even be seductively stylised, however this presents a disparity between the graphic yet stylised sense of violence seen and the more visceral, raw violence of the underlying narrative – the viewer’s experience both the heightened, unreal violence of the screen and the innate violence seen but never fully shown, the fear in the back of the viewer’s mind.

The Neon Demon (2016)

When looking into ideas of female hysteria, perhaps the ultimate hysterical act is carried out in this film, as the main character is slaughtered and eaten by a group of ambitious fashion industry girls who hope to gain her otherworldly and sought after youth and beauty. There is a scene at the end, which is at once incredibly graphic as well as highly intriguing, as the violence that’s presented is a strange sense of unreal – it couldn’t happen and the viewer knows this, however their fear is played upon through the power of the visual image alongside the narrative. One model appears to get very ill, and at once vomits a whole eyeball up. After screaming, ‘I need to get her out of me!’ she slits her own stomach, in order to expel the cursed body she ingested. This scene inspired me, as I like the way that violence can be shown in more overt manners, yet through the use of stylisation of colours, lighting and framing the viewer agrees to looking in on something past their level of comfort, and the ability to shock is heightened.

Only God Forgives (2013)

I am also inspired by the way that violence is portrayed in Winding Refn’s ‘Only God Forgives’. In this film, a far more tense offering than ‘The Neon Demon’, Ran Gosling’s character follows a path of vengeance after his brother’s murder. The violence in this film is overt, and at times uncomfortably disgusting, however it is necessary for the continuation of the plot to show such overt scenes. Again, Winding Refn’s use of a beautiful colour scheme enhances the false sense of security felt by the viewer, as they are absorbed by beauty, captured in the film’s narrative and then expelled after the violent act has been passively consumed and made a mark on the audiences ability to view violence.

In my own film, I would like to carry forward Winding Refn’s sense of stylisation, particularly with his use of lighting and colour scheme, in order to create a beautiful visual image with converges and then pulls away from the main narrative in a cyclical fashion. In addition, I still need to consider whether I will depict any scenes from the narrative in graphic detail, however I believe if I do depict any violence, I will use a heavily seductive visual style which entraps the viewer as they passively confirm the beauty through gazing,  before they know of the horrors that they have agreed to view through overt and graphic violence.

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