Danish director Refn splatters Cannes festival with violence

Wed May 22, 2013 11:54am EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Belinda Goldsmith

CANNES (Reuters) - An ultra-violent thriller set in the Bangkok underworld of brothels and fight clubs came under attack at the Cannes film festival on Wednesday for its bloodletting which Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn defended as art.

"Only God Forgives" by Refn, who won the best director award at Cannes two years ago, is the story of Julian, an American fugitive played by Canadian Ryan Gosling, who runs a boxing club in the Thai capital as a front for a drug business.

After his brother is murdered for killing a prostitute, his gangster mother played by a chain-smoking, peroxide blonde Kristin Scott Thomas arrives demanding the heads of his killers, including a mysterious policeman handy with a sword.

As the family seeks revenge, the God-like policeman decides their fate, with blood splattered throughout the film that is sparse on dialogue but heavy on imagery with many scenes set in claustrophobic corridors darkly lit in blood red.

In one scene a hitman is pinned to a chair with four skewers while his eyes are gauged out and in another a sword splits open a gunman's chest, blood gushing and ribs exposed.

The film sharply divided critics at Cannes. Some people walked out of a press screening and others booed at the end, while some critics described it as "aesthetically brilliant".

Refn, whose film "Drive" also starring Gosling received a standing ovation at Cannes in 2011 and won him the best director award, defended the violence in his film that is one of 20 competing for the main prize at the world's top cinema showcase.

"Art is an act of violence. Art is about penetration ... I approach things very much like a pornographer and it is about what arouses me," Refn told a news conference, without Gosling who was in Detroit working on his directorial debut.   Continued...

Director Nicolas Winding Refn (L) and cast member Vithaya Pansringarm attend a news conference for the film "Only God Forgives" during the 66th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes May 22, 2013. REUTERS/Yves Herman