Nicolas Winding Refn is in truth one of the cult names of Scandinavian film and particularly in Denmark. Refn was born in 1970 in Copenhagen, Denmark, but it was in the city of New York, United States of America, where he grew and gained maturity. His education was also made between the two countries, still first in the United States, in American Academy of Dramatic Arts and then in Denmark, in Danish Film School. And this thing the fish son knows swim, is as clear as water, since Nicolas comes from a family linked to the movies, his father Anders Refn is a director and editor and his mother Vibeke Winding is cinematographer.

It is in Denmark when his film career began, with the first film of the trilogy Pusher (1996), and that debut! Refn invites us to spend a week in the life of Frank (Kim Bodnia), a drug dealer who manages a little illicit drugs business and lives like there’s no tomorrow, always in the company of his friend Tonny (Mads Mikkelsen). But a deal that had everything to go well and be easy, ends up coming out differently than expected and then we come to see Frank’s fight against time to save and rectify your errors. The entire project PusherPusher (1996), Pusher II (2004) and Pusher III (2005) – represent a naked and raw Denmark by its darker side, through drug trafficking and violence. Although the first movie is outstanding and in fact marks the beginning of the career of Danish director and of what we can expect from him, a simple cinema, but with a quite contents and stylish, with great skills as regards the lighting and a great hearing when choosing the soundtrack. Pusher turns a cult film by the way to approach the context of drug underworld.

In 1999 comes the second film of the list, Bleeder, and also does not disappoint. Again Nicolas Winding Refn surprises the cinematographic world with an aggressive and hard drama about relationships and characters with character problems. Increasingly begins to define your style centered on antihero’s introverts, which at first sight are devoid of any emotion, but actually are deeply sensitive.

Fear X (2003) is the first film in which Refn writes in English and records in North America. Once again we are faced with a psychological thriller, with to weight and measure when it comes to violence (an usual in the filmography of Winding Refn) this time played by Oscar-winning actor John Turturro wearing the skin of Harry Caine, a tranquil security of a shopping center, whose wife is murdered, apparently without reason, on the same local. Note that Fear X (2003) was premiered at the Sundance International Film Festival to great delight of the audience and critics.

After the release of Bleeder (1999) and Fear X (2003), Winding Refn plunged into a financial crisis caused largely by these two films which resulted in the failure of your production company, all of this is documented by the Danish director Phie Ambo, in your documentary Gambler (2006) interesting from the point of view of who is a fan of Refn’s work because it represents a less good period of your life, but that turns out to be one of the most interesting of his career, his decision to return to Pusher project, conversations with his wife Liv Corfixen about the present, and finally, as Pusher II (2004) and III (2005) were able to save them from debts and regain its status.

Bronson (2008) is one of those subterfuge, violent and surreal works, just like the real history, told accurately about the British criminal Michael Peterson, a man who was sentenced to 7 years in prison for robbing a post office, but ends up serving a sentence of 37 years and 30 years it spent in solitary confinement. During this stay in solitary confinement, he has an psychotic alter ego that goes through be the actor Charles Bronson on movie Death Wish (1974), Michael Winner. The film was a box office success and selected for important festivals.

The year 2009 brings us Valhalla Rising, by far the most different from any other  work of Winding Refn. The film is a trip to the Viking world, remains loyal to its line of violence, sometimes witnessed psychological way, sometimes in graphic form. It is the story of a legendary warrior converted into a slave, One Eye (Mads Mikkelsen) that after escaping to their owners, and taking with him a boy, is seen in the middle of a Christian journey on the way to the Holy Land, the fear of the unknown and by the change of barbarian world towards Middle Ages. A violent film, raw, heavy and incredibly intellectual, in good way to Nicolas Winding Refn, of the few who can remit two universes, of the epic films and the inspiration of the art film. To mention the excellent work of actor Mads Mikkelsen, and also highlight that was the fourth partnership between actor and director.

And the eighth feature film, arrive us your masterpiece, Drive (2011). No, it is no exaggeration, Drive (2011) is the consecration, is the icing on the cake of Refn in cinema. The movie features a fantastic job both the director, as well as actors, cinematographer, screenwriter, in the end, the whole team deserve the applause, and then the soundtrack falls like a glove! The story was based on the homonymous book of 2005, of American writer James Sallis, and revolves around a driver (Ryan Gosling) who has dual life by day works as a mechanic and double in Hollywood movies and by night as a driver for robberies. He begins to spend some time with your neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her son, but with the arrival of the husband of the young girl, who was arrested (Oscar Isaac) he sees this approach menaced.

The tone of the story, minimalist and intimate, direct legacy of noir, and all those sequences that the film has, that makes us run out of breath, or even this duplicity which the protagonist carries on the one hand is a hero, yes, but in fact it does not leave to be a monster, doing horrific things to survive, but still not fail to see your human side. The complicity between the driver and Irene, says us much more than what most love stories tells us. The promise of a love that never materialize and the most cruel and violent side of a person, joined to everything else, are the ingredients that puts Drive (2011) on the shelf that limited group of films that we like to visit from time to times. Words for what! The fact is that the reviews were consensual and between nominations and awards, Nicolas Winding Refn even won the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011.

His latest work, at least to date, is Only God Forgives (2013). The expectation was much to see that followed after Drive (2011) and even more so again with partnership Gosling – Refn. It is true that the film does not dazzled as his “other brother”, but in the end turns out to be a cohesive film with a good narrative (which sometimes leaves us in doubt between the real and the imaginary), and all that Refn has accustomed us. This time Ryan Gosling, is Julian, a drug dealer in Bangkok, which has a martial arts academy and use it as a vehicle for their illicit business. One night his brother Billy (Tom Burke) goes in search of an underage prostitute, that after have sex with the girl, kills her violently. The police and the ex – police Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm) – a kind of “Dexter” of the city, or if you like an avenging angel. Chang called the father of the girl and puts him in front of Billy, for this to have his revenge. Upon learning of the occurrence Julien goes after the man to avenge his brother, but to hear the history, gives up. Who does not give up is your mother, Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) to know about the death of your son, goes to Bangkok and ordain to kill girl’s father and ordain Julien get revenge of Chang.

Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013) has a very well-constructed scenario, with little dialogue and a lot of tension – violence can explode at any time. The film was premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, and was able to divide the reviews, but, however had nominations and awards, including the nomination to the Palme d’or in the Cannes Film Festival that same year, and lost to the film Blue is the warmest colour (2012), Abdellatif Kechiche.

Nicolas Winding Refn is a respected director in the world of the cinema, all his capability as director, screenwriter and producer and work with some of the best professionals in the film, actors, editors, screenwriters, directors of photography, etc., made it named a number of times for major awards at festivals around the world and in some of these times obtain prizes.

As to the public has to wait by the next movies! •


CategoriesIssue 8

Paulo Antunes studied Art Studies at the University of Algarve in Faro, Portugal. He has worked in many different areas, from picking fruit to being a waiter in a restaurant, but has always had a passion for film and music. He has participated in the organisation of two film culture shows: the 5th Filmic Culture with the theme of the importance of music in the cinema, and the 2nd Filmic Culture with the theme of the theory of Superman. He completed a traineeship in CIAC and was also the manager of a Portuguese punk rock band named Defying Control. Currently he works on various film projects.