Nic Refn on Ryan Gosling and “Only God Forgives”: VICE Podcast 011

Nic Refn on Ryan Gosling and “Only God Forgives”: VICE Podcast 011

Eddy Moretti. Welcome to the Vice podcast. My guest today is Nicolas
Winding Refn– I think I got that right– the director of films like
“Valhalla Rising,” “Bronson,” “Drive,” and now the new film,
“Only God Forgives.” NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Ish. EDDY MORETTI: Ish. You’re not sure about that? You directed it, but you don’t
know if God can forgive. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: I think
that act of revenge and forgiveness is so embedded
in our DNA that it’s a consequential to the whole
concept of drama. EDDY MORETTI: Yeah, so that is
a theme that connects all of your work, obviously. “Valhalla Rising” is all
about that, right? Vengeance. Where do you see that? Why is that such a big
concern of yours? Where in the world do
you see this drive– no pun intended– to vengeance? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: I think
that vengeance is so primal because it forces us to
take a moral view. I mean, when people ask about
the act of violence, if you look at humanity, you were born
as a violent organism out of self-preservation, purely. EDDY MORETTI: What’s the violent
moment in our birth? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Well,
our physicality. We’re born with parts of our
body that can be violent. But it was mostly of
self-preservation, self-survival. And over the years, we have ways
to survive without the need of violent mechanisms. Society, religion makes law now
that our teeth, our hands, things that are very violent
parts of our body no longer has functions other than
what we use it for– shake our hands. EDDY MORETTI: So
not as weapons? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: It’s no
longer needed as a weapon. But it’s just a weapon. If you don’t have any
violent impulses, then it has no function. So obviously, we are born
with a violent impulse. And once you take those away,
devices, and castrates them so they’re no longer needed because
of society, we then fantasize much more about
violence, because we still have it within us. But when it used to be
an outlet out of self-preservation, it now
becomes fantasy, more or less. EDDY MORETTI: And is
that the source of your violent fantasies? Are you tapping into that? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Well,
I think that there is a– EDDY MORETTI: Do you
feel primal? That’s the question. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: I think
that primal works very well. It’s very accessible for an
audience or spectator to– EDDY MORETTI: They recognize
–connect with. It’s an instinct. That’s why there are certain
laws in drama that constantly reappear from generation
to generation. It’s the same DNA that comes
back and comes back and comes back and comes back. And it’s the essence of drama. And of course, vengeance is very
much, because vengeance is based on moral standpoint. And that’s what makes
us– a human– function, rather than just an
animalistic approach of self-preservation,
which is the only thing an animal knows. EDDY MORETTI: So two things. One, I want to figure out where
vengeance and violence figures in to your personal
experience, growing up in Denmark. So that’s one question. But before I get to that,
I want to ask you– there’s violence as
self-preservation. Your films pretty much present
these singular characters consumed to act– and mostly to act violent– with very little sense– and maybe it’s different in your
new film, but very little sense that there is a group here
that they are trying to preserve, right? It’s not about– it is about singular survival,
and not about survival of a– NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
It’s an individual. EDDY MORETTI: Yeah,
individuals. It’s not like a small tribe,
or the survival of a family or a group. The new film is a little bit
different, because there is this family dynamic. But it’s really dysfunctional. But where do you land on that? Why aren’t there more little
social units in the world of your films? What’s the attraction to this
individual who’s, really, out there all alone? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Well,
I grew up in New York. EDDY MORETTI: Oh, cool. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: So, I
spent my teenage years– I came in 1979 and
stayed until ’87. EDDY MORETTI: A decade or
so, almost a decade. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: From
I was 8 until I was 17. EDDY MORETTI: OK, so you came
of age in New York. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Yeah. Obviously I have a
Danish passport. But I’m a New Yorker by heart. EDDY MORETTI: And so what was
that experience like for you? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: I think
that coming to America without knowing English, an
obvious sense of isolation comes to mind. I’m not saying that’s
a bad thing. I’m just saying the minute
you are out of your understanding– or not even home. But when you’re in a world where
there is no logic to the noises around you, in terms of
speech, you’re forced to observe the world in
a different way. EDDY MORETTI: Right. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Coming
to America at that time was very different than it is now,
because it was really an event, coming all the
way from Copenhagen. EDDY MORETTI: In ’87? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: No, ’78. EDDY MORETTI: ’78. So yeah, New York was really
different in ’78. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: But the
whole concept of going New York was different. EDDY MORETTI: Right. The traveling. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: The
idea of a skyscraper. At night, you had to dial
because it was a better connection. EDDY MORETTI: Right. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: It
was that far away. And I think that concept of
movement into an unknown territory and being
isolated is maybe something to do with it. EDDY MORETTI: Maybe. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: But
I’m not an analyst. I certainly wouldn’t
want to go to one. EDDY MORETTI: Right. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: But I can
see some of the mechanisms that I do understand, and
it’s OK to understand. EDDY MORETTI: But just
intellectually, are you interested in a similar type
of character that you’ve portrayed in your movies, but
putting that character in a more social situation– in the family dynamic? NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
There’s a sense of isolation in mythology. It’s hard to fantasize
about a tribe. That’s not very fetish-oriented. You must remember, I approach
my films like a pin-up. And it’s about what arouses me,
and not so much about– I’m not a political filmmaker. I don’t touch upon social
issues as an agenda of a specific political view
or a social view. I don’t have that form of
interest in what I do. EDDY MORETTI: But there’s a
group in “Valhalla,” right? But again, it’s a very
dysfunctional group. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: “Valhalla
Rising” is very much about a specific religious chaos
that was taking time in that period in Europe, where
Christianity was spreading up through the north, and how it
was devouring paganism. But it was devouring in
different kinds of ways. It was even mutating. So Jesus would be sold as a
warrior for certain people. He would purchase, he
would buy people. He would conquer. And the idea that the first holy
war had a lot of people that weren’t even Christians
moving towards it, because it was at a time when there was
religious turmoil and a search for some kind of meaning, which
essentially came with Christianity. Society was essentially created
as we know it today throughout the world. EDDY MORETTI: I really
love that film. I think it was really
powerful. That long sequence, what
was the vision? What inspired that film? What was the central image
that motivated you? There is that long, long
sequence in the mist. And to me, I was like, this is
kind of what this film is about, in a strange way. But I couldn’t put
my finger on it. But where did that scene fit
in to your initial desire? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: I wanted
to do a science fiction movie. EDDY MORETTI: It did feel
Tarkovskian, and sci-fi. NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
Without science. EDDY MORETTI: Yeah,
without science. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Because
science limits you, because science is based on logic– like machinery. EDDY MORETTI: Technology. NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
Technology, whatever we call it. There’s limitations to the
imagination in it. EDDY MORETTI: There was even a
moment in that mist sequence where I thought, the film
is going to end in here. But I saw the trailer. So I knew– NICOLAS WINDING REFN: You
knew what happens. EDDY MORETTI: I knew
a little bit. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: They
always give it away. EDDY MORETTI: Well, I knew there
was going to be some dudes in mohawks. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: The whole
idea do of wanting to make that film came from
when I was little. Obviously, I’m dyslexic. My mother read me a story about
a father and son that travels to the moon
in a spaceship. And on the moon they
find a cave. And in the cave they find
a human coffin. EDDY MORETTI: That’s
a good story. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: And I
can’t remember what happened. EDDY MORETTI: Right. NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
Or I remember, but have forgotten it. And the idea of doing a film
about traveling into a mystery, taking it at a time
where there was nothing. You see, when you make films,
there’s also the whole business side of how do
you get the money. So I went to some financiers. And I said, Mads Mikkelsen,
vikings, action. EDDY MORETTI: He’s the
craziest killer. And everyone– done. NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
much do you need? EDDY MORETTI: But that’s
only the first act. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: That
was the first image. EDDY MORETTI: Or the
first image. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: But I
was able to get $3 million combined out of Europe
to do that. EDDY MORETTI: And just out of
curiosity, how did they feel of the finished product? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Everyone
believed it was going to be a nail in my coffin. EDDY MORETTI: Yeah. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Because
I just came off “Bronson,” which had been very
successful. EDDY MORETTI: Very successful,
but a completely different kind of film. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: But don’t
forget, “Bronson” and “Valhalla Rising” were
made back to back. Literally, I went from one
movie to the other movie. EDDY MORETTI: Which one
is your favorite? NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
I have two kids. It’s not Sophie’s choice. EDDY MORETTI: But was the idea
to make “Valhalla” already in your pocket while you were
making “Bronson?” NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Yeah. Just like “Only God Forgives”
was already in my head when I made “Drive.” Because I was
really going to make “Valhalla Rising.” And then I decided to
do “Bronson” first, sort of out of nowhere. And then I was going to make
“Only God Forgives.” And I suddenly decided to
do “Drive” first. EDDY MORETTI: It would probably
have been harder to make “Bronson” if you made
“Valhalla” first. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: I think
that I wouldn’t have made “Valhalla” the way I did if I
hadn’t made “Bronson” first. EDDY MORETTI: Really? Explain. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Well,
“Bronson” is like an all night of cocaine. EDDY MORETTI: Yeah. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: The next
morning, it’s all acid. Or the aftermath,
or the shakes. EDDY MORETTI: Yeah,
regret, but also the whole what the fuck just
happened feel. And with “Drive” and “Only God
Forgives,” I can almost now see a certain similarity in the constructions of the four movies. That they are the effect
of decision that causes everything to change. It’s like a flip of a coin,
the ends of both extremes. And there’s no middle, because
I don’t have time to think of anything in between. EDDY MORETTI: I like that
about your filmmaking. “Only God” moves, really, for
a slow, studied film, with real deliberate camera work,
and pacing, and stuff. It moves like this is a story
that keeps unfolding. And I think it’s interesting. There is no kind of time or
space to bother with a lot of the details– like how did they get there? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: It’s
a pin-up magazine. EDDY MORETTI: Yeah. Explain that a little more. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: It’s like
if you were to go take a photography book, or even you
look at your own wall. If you take all those images the
way they are now, and you go from left to right–
how we observe story– a certain pattern will
reveal itself. If you were to mix them around
and do the same thing again, a new pattern would
reveal itself. But essentially, the right
pattern would reveal itself. So all my films can
start with– like “Bronson” was– I want to make a film about
a man who wants to be his own mythology. And it’s going to start with,
my name is Charles Bronson. And all my life, I wanted
to be famous. And it’s going to end
with a success. But the consequence is he’s
chained for life. In “Valhalla Rising,” the idea
of going into the unknown at a religious turmoil and doing a
film that’s a science fiction without technology, very
much, it’s like meditation, in a way. If you look at the same
constellation, if you look at that image of those trees enough
for 90 minutes, it’s guaranteed to alter it
1,000 different ways. And you may even change your
perspective of everything else around you. And “Drive,” it was about
capturing a moment me and Ryan had in a car where I
had this kind of– because I was also very high. EDDY MORETTI: What
were you high on? Pot? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: No, I’d
gotten these anti-flu drugs, because I had a fever. In America, they produce these
things that I’m not used to having in Europe. So it was of some kind powder
you put in hot water and then you drink it. And it completely made
me delirious. At the same time I
had a high fever. And we were driving
in the car. And REO Speedwagon
was playing. And I started singing. And I started to cry. And I came up with, oh my god,
we’re going to make a movie about a man who drives around
in a car at night listening to pop music. So we wanted to make a movie
about that emotion. EDDY MORETTI: Right. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: And “Only
God Forgives,” because I sold it as a fight. I went to some French people. And I said, a French film costs
6 million euros on an average basis. So I said, I’ll give you
two movies for six. And one of them will be a fight
movie, because that’s a commercial commodity. They’re like, OK. And I thought, OK, the most
dominating image of any fight movie or entertainment– which is so enormous
around us– is the clenched fist. This image is so dominating. And there is a very singular
vision of aggression and violence within it. Even just people doing this,
we automatically step away. Or we are conscious of a
possible violent act. It scares us. But it’s also an extension
of the male sexuality. It’s an act of release. So sex and violence in the
exact same definition– EDDY MORETTI: Configuration. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Yeah. It’s a sculpture that
has both things. And especially when people
fight, the clenching is so enormous that they sometimes
shake because they have to be so strong. EDDY MORETTI: Taut, yeah. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: That on
impact, and the hand opens up, it’s a sense of climax. So this act of sex and violence
in one movement. And then I thought, OK, but
if I did this, it’s full submission, because it’s the
oldest form of prey. And I thought, that movement– going from this to that– I could make a movie
about that. EDDY MORETTI: That’s the origin
of the story line? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Of
“Only God Forgives.” EDDY MORETTI: Really. Is that how you create? Are you motivated like– NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Purely
like a pin-up. EDDY MORETTI: Yeah. It’s more than just
a pin-up, right? Does that come to you in a
flash, or do you think about it and develop it? Do you get obsessed? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: I kind
of think about it. I actually came more into that, because I was in Scotland. And my wife was pregnant
with our second child. And it was a very difficult
pregnancy. So I was very angry, because I
was very afraid, essentially. When you’re in doubt,
faith comes in. And I’m not a religious man. But faith is very natural when
we’re in need of it. And the idea that if there was
a God who had the power to give or take life, well, I
wanted to punish him for what he was putting me through. So the idea of a man wanting
to fight God– EDDY MORETTI: Began
the intellectual– NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
–began– EDDY MORETTI: Began
I came up with the police lieutenant, and then Julian,
which was the protagonist. But then, this wasn’t really an
antagonist, because he was so larger than life. God is not an interesting
opponent, because it’s like having Superman. He’s untouchable. EDDY MORETTI: Right. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: You
can never defeat him. So I had to come up with another
antagonist, because the film is essentially
also a revenge story. So the classic gangster
royal family construction was his mother. EDDY MORETTI: Right. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Which
changes everything, because we’re so used to male dominance
in that kind of configuration. But bringing in a woman and
making it the mother automatically opens up a very
complicated relationship because of the sexual nature of
violence, and then the idea that she devours her children. Everything is heightened
reality, of course. But that’s what fairy
tales can do. You heighten reality, because
then everything can dribble down in terms of our
subconscious. Because authenticity is not
interesting in fiction, because you can never
duplicate reality. But if you can heighten it, you
can mirror it, which is very different. EDDY MORETTI: The
police chief– is he chief of police,
or whatever? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Well, he
was written as he wears the uniform of a Thai police
lieutenant that’s retired. But, of course, nobody will
know that except the Thai. EDDY MORETTI: Thai police. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: But
he looked like a priest. EDDY MORETTI: Yeah. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Because
he had a white collar and he had this black uniform which
is how they dress. EDDY MORETTI: And when did
you give him that device? The slicing of the– NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Well, it’s
because the Thai police lieutenant– the God-like character that
he’s based on, or God– is God from the Old Testament,
not the new one. Because in the Old Testament,
God says, you have to fear me, because I will be cruel, as you
have to love me, because I will be kind. So he’s based on purely
cause and effect. He’s based on purely an
emotional, instinctual reaction to injustice,
or whatever comes through our lives. And the hand is– the oldest form of punishment
that we know of is the removal of hands. And certain culture
still practice it. EDDY MORETTI: We have a
documentary on Vice on the removal of hands and
OK, so it’s still practiced many ways. Because when you remove
your hand, you remove a social status. You remove a physical status. You remove– EDDY MORETTI: A weapon, right? NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
A weapon. It’s a form of a castration,
in a sense. And it’s a mark. You see it automatically. And then, I remember, I’m very
obsessed with my hands. I have very soft hands. And I remember my mother told me
when I was little, I would always protect my hands
when I fell. And when it was winter in New
York, I had my mother bathe my hands in Vaseline, and
then put socks on them when I was asleep. EDDY MORETTI: Why? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: So
when I would wake up– EDDY MORETTI: They were
nice and soft? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: –they
were soft, because if you think about it, on one level,
there’s a whole belief that if you open your palm, we can read
our future within it. At the same time, the act of
touching is so sensitive that the more sensitive your hands
are, the more of an effect everything has around you. And then, hands is a great way
to understands people psychic of how they look at themselves,
how they look at other people. EDDY MORETTI: What do
you think of me? NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
Interesting. EDDY MORETTI: Good hands? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Not
as good as Ryan’s. EDDY MORETTI: No? I guess not a lot
of people have– were you attracted
to his hands? Really? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Well, he
has very beautiful hands. EDDY MORETTI: Yeah. I look at hands, but
not the way you do. But you were drawn
to his hands? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Well,
it’s part of the story. So it kind of had to work. EDDY MORETTI: But I
mean before that. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: No. EDDY MORETTI: I don’t know when
you started collaborating with him, or when you– NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Well, that
actually came very late, because since I was going to
make “Only God Forgives” first, I had cast the movie with
other actors when I was doing “Drive.” And then, after
“Drive” had premiered, this particular actor that I had cast
to play the Julian part drops out three months before
we’re supposed to start prep. So I’m like, fuck. I’m left with no actor. And I was with Ryan at that time
in LA at a place we like to go, called the 101. And we had just done “Drive.”
And we had met in such a peculiar way to do “Drive” that
it was almost like an opportunity arose to
do another movie. And I really needed his
help, because I didn’t know who else– EDDY MORETTI: You
just cast him. NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
I was blank. EDDY MORETTI: And then, because
of the role, you looked at his hands, and– NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Yeah,
I mean, come on. EDDY MORETTI: And how
did you meet him? What’s the peculiar circumstance
Originally? EDDY MORETTI: Originally,
under which you met? NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
He called me. EDDY MORETTI: He liked
your films. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Yeah. We’d never met. EDDY MORETTI: You like
he’s the best, yeah. EDDY MORETTI: So given kind of
the mythological space that you’re working in, especially
in this film, how do you direct your actor? How do you direct him? What kind of discussions
do you have with him? Because exposition and the
kind of things that some actors like to know about
who is my character? What’s his motivation? Where was he born,
or whatever? There is no exposition
in your movies. And I think, at least in “Only
God,” that’s what keeps it moving really quickly. Because you don’t care about who
had Cheerios for breakfast or how they got into a
car or out of a car. Why do you need all those
set up shots? They’re useless. I agree with you. But just give me an example of
how you talk to your actors. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Well, it’s
a way of submitting to the actual act of creating. Because I shoot my films in
chronological order, it constantly is an open
void as it moves. Now, I have start, middle, and
an end, and I want to get to the three beat. I have to get to. And there’s also a
specific script. But it’s open to constant
organism that can alter it, if it needs to be. EDDY MORETTI: With– NICOLAS WINDING REFN: With
your collaborators. EDDY MORETTI: Yeah. NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
So with the actors– which is a very intimate
part of that process. And giving in, as I was saying,
submission means you give in to the creation by
always asking everyone else, what would you like to do? Constantly reminding them that
they have to give themselves 200%, because or else, the
creation will automatically exclude you. EDDY MORETTI: Is that why you
shoot in chronological order? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Well, I do
that because or else I get really confused, because it
becomes about, well, how? And everything becomes
Then you’ve already done it in your head. But the act of painting is
much more interesting. And I can’t paint. I’m colorblind. I wouldn’t get very far. I’m not very good with clay. I can’t play music,
I can’t sing. I’m not a very good writer. So I don’t really have a lot
of opportunities, as Bronson would say. So film became it. And the idea of sitting with
someone, that’s why it’s so important who you cast, because
when you’re constantly asking the question, what
would you like to do? It opens a discussion between
you and the performer– Ryan or Kristen Scott Thomas
or Tom Hardy or Mads Mikkelsen, whoever I’ve
collaborated with over the years, very intimately. And then it’s like, afterwards,
things begun to have more meanings. Because then, when I’m in the
editing room, the first thing I do with Matt Newman, who edits
all my movies, is that we put the movies together in
1,000 different ways, just to see what it would do, like
you would do here. EDDY MORETTI: Right. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: You
do a constant collage. And then slowly, everything
would reveal itself that you maybe subconsciously didn’t
know was in it. EDDY MORETTI: But you’ve
scripted this production. So you’ve shot in sequence. You’re saying that after, in the
editing process, you let– NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
everything back and forth, left, right, center. EDDY MORETTI: Wow. What’s your favorite part? That sounds like a
stupid question. What do you enjoy more– that process of shooting and
capturing, or that next process of rearranging
and discovering? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Both have
great emotional ups and downs in it. I think, for me, my favorite
part is just coming up with the idea, because it has
no consequences. EDDY MORETTI: It’s the most
important part of it, as well, right? When a powerful idea like this,
or this image, and your hatred of God because of your
newborn, I mean, that part of it is the most fun, because
Everything else. EDDY MORETTI: –everything
engineer of the motor. EDDY MORETTI: Do you ever feel–
when you get that image and that idea that’s so fertile
and it generates so many other questions and
considerations– do you ever get a little
drunk on that feeling? And do you ever feel– is that a eureka moment? Do you feel like, ah, I have
a thing that has a life of its own now? NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
Well, it’s very– once you’ve tapped into
it, you can’t stop. EDDY MORETTI: You’re right. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: And it
flows, and it’s very great, and you really can’t be around
people, because everything is a disturbance. And so it’s hard when you have
children and a wife. So I have to find specific
moments to do that. And it usually happens
at night, when everybody has gone to sleep. So it needs to come out. You need to get it
out of the body. EDDY MORETTI: Yeah. And do you write it
to get it out? Do you collage it? NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
Index cards. EDDY MORETTI: Index cards. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Just write
Ideas on index cards. EDDY MORETTI: No
imagery, just– NICOLAS WINDING REFN: I
don’t do movie boards. EDDY MORETTI: It’s conceptual. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Yeah. EDDY MORETTI: Completely. Wow. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: The mind
is an incredible device. EDDY MORETTI: That’s the film,
in a sense, when that is the creation of the film,
and that’s cool. Does it make you happy,
when you’re going through that process? NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
Oh, it’s great. The act of creativity is
the ultimate high. And I’m very afraid of anything
dangerous, so I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke
cigarettes, I don’t do drugs. I don’t do anything that’s
dangerous, because I have extreme fear of pain. But creativity, when it works,
the combination– it’s like the ultimate– I mean, I was no angel,
when I was young. But it’s like the greatest
euphorious stage of being. It’s when you become God-like,
because the power you have and the flow and the purity of just
the satisfaction, how it speaks to your ego and vanity. And there’s an outlet,
because creativity, essentially, is an outlet. If you were able to accept all
your demons within you, then creativity is better
than therapy. It’s a release pattern. It’s like sex, but times a
billion, and it just keeps on going, and going, and going. EDDY MORETTI: We’ve run out of
time, and this is the wrong time to run out of time,
but I’m going to ask one more question. That act of Genesis,
right, that you’re talking about here– have ever gone into production
without going through that process? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Yes. EDDY MORETTI: And how
did it turn out? NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
I failed miserably. So I am very fortunate to have
felt failure so hard that it literally killed me and I needed
to resurrect myself. EDDY MORETTI: What was that? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: It was
a movie I did called– God, what was it called? It was called Fear X. Maybe
I was in my late 20s. And I had a great collaboration
with many people in it, but I failed. And I failed because it wasn’t
about this process, it was about my ego. EDDY MORETTI: Right. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: And ego
kills more creativity than any amount of drugs. EDDY MORETTI: But there is an
ego gratification, like you described, that comes out of
going through that process. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Yeah but
that’s because it’s for– EDDY MORETTI: Yes. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: See, but
it’s very different, because ego is two different things,
because there is the ego of how other people see you. That’s the dangerous ego. That’s the destructive ego. And I’ve been there,
and I failed. Thank God I was able to rise,
because it’s hard to rise. And then, there is the ego of
just pure act of creation, which is another kind of ego
that is not destructive, that’s not dangerous and
actually is good. So your ego has the devil and
it has the God within it. And you’re always at struggle
within those elements, like love and hate. And it’s like whenever the
bad ego comes- usually in situations where you’re
praised, or when people love you. Or even when people hate you,
because what you do makes them so angry that the people who
love it, love it even more. EDDY MORETTI: Right. NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
It’s dangerous. You always have to shy away, and
just say, you can’t walk on water, don’t forget, it’s
the act of creation. You must forget all that
comes afterwards. EDDY MORETTI: Well, we’re taught
that ego is wrong. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: No,
no, ego is not wrong. EDDY MORETTI: No, no, but the
connotations that generally people give are that
egoism is vanity. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: It
can be part of vanity. It can be, but don’t forget,
it’s important to be young and egotistical and believe that
Johnny Ramone was right in everything he said, because it
creates a sense of fuck you. And you have to be– EDDY MORETTI: You have to
have a little fuck you. NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
You can’t. You have to go through that. EDDY MORETTI: Right. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: It’s
part of being young. And if you don’t go through
that, it’s a great missed opportunity. Cherish, embrace your ego. But be very, very careful. It’s like drugs. Drugs are bad for you. But they’re fun. It’s a hard balance. EDDY MORETTI: Well, I wish
we could talk all day. I love your new film. I wanted to talk about sticking
your hand into your mother’s belly. NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Well,
that’s very primal for men, because all men, essentially,
fear their mother’s sexuality, and yet they’re aroused by it. Inside of you is a deep-rooted,
instinctual part of you that you probably will
not even recognize or accept or even understand. That a part of you could have
a sexual arousement towards your mother. EDDY MORETTI: Is that
what got booed at Cannes, was it that scene? NICOLAS WINDING REFN: Well,
some people loved it. Some people hated it. But they’re very vocal
in Cannes. So either they would stand
and cheer, or they would stand up and boo. And it probably penetrated a
lot of people’s minds to places where they don’t
want to go. Which is what art
is supposed to. EDDY MORETTI: Well, I clapped. NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
The art of violence. EDDY MORETTI: I loved it. Great job. NICOLAS WINDING REFN:
Thank you. EDDY MORETTI: Nice meeting you.

100 thoughts on “Nic Refn on Ryan Gosling and “Only God Forgives”: VICE Podcast 011

  1. "I guess people never understand that of which they cannot comprehend"

    Besides the pretentious grammatical construction ("that of which" — please stop trying to sound smart), all you said is people don't get what they can't get, and you said it with uncertainty, like it's not the most redundant possible statement.

  2. frty, angsty teenagers like to see themselves as part of some cognitive elite towering over the pitchfork-wielding masses. Most grow out of it once they have to apply themselves in the real world. Some don't.

  3. Listening to a director explain every artistic intention of his/her movie, especially BEFORE seeing it, takes SO MUCH away from the film. Chances are the viewer ain't gonna see it how Refn sees it. I doubt this made anyone say "Okay, I need to see this NOWWW."

    Take David Lynch for example – he refuses to explain anything about his films & that adds to the thrill of self interpretation.

  4. David lynch is different however, all the symbolism in only god forgives has a direct meaning, and david lynch movies often have multiple.

  5. You don't even understand the real world. I am here simply expressing an opinion and an idea and you are willing to go to great lengths to dismiss them, even if they do seem logical. Tell me, what do you get out of trying to exploit teenagers on the internet? Are you some sort of Sadist?

  6. Let me tell you if you haven't seen "Only God Forgives" you HAVE to see it. This is hands down Refn's BEST work. Now, a lot of people who saw Drive should know upfront – This is nothing like that at all. This movie is extremely Kubrique-like and very dark. In fact, Refn teamed with former Kubrick cameraman Larry Smith to make the movie. I am a HUGE Gosling fan after this as I now see that he's got incredible versatility and a way about him that is so cool and gracefully accepting. 5 stars!

  7. simply great. i was being ignorant till i received my ipad from here. dont think its funny, make sure you tell the address and email properly to send the giftbox. rush it here >->

  8. you know you have a shitty interviewer when he manages to come across as more pretentious than an european fucking filmmaker.

  9. this is all nice and everything but THE GUY IN THE BACKGROUND AT 00:36 WAS PICKING HIS NOSE TEE HEE HEE *runs away telling everyone*

  10. I'd strongly suggest watching Refn's Pusher trilogy. These are one of the best films I've ever seen. Strongly recommended.

  11. Sorry to the half-wits who can't handle an education level equivalent to Eddy Moretti's. Stop hating. Read a book. Go to school. Morons.

  12. Bronson was excellent, valhalla rising was very atmospheric if somewhat slow paced and I really enjoyed the pusher trilogy. I'm not sure what your definition of an 'actual movie' is but perhaps his work just isn't for you. Not every piece of cinema necessarily has to be fun in my opinion. (You wouldn't read Hemingway for laughs, for example). So you know – just don't watch his movies if it's not your bag =)

  13. I feel you. I mean I enjoy Hirokazu Koreeda films , where others may not. Thought I can't help what resonates deep within me. I consider myself to have a very open mind and have enjoyed his work in the past. I'm also aware how he was pretty much bankrupt, but stuck gold with drive success , and I do appreciate his work as an artist.. I Just found Only god forgives, lacked a story. visually I enjoyed it, but even cinema has a guideline sotospeak. Also I wouldn't know either if it was my bag.

  14. I know… I'm really getting annoyed at all these ignorant haters. I haven't been this annoyed since the time I had 7 christians trying to convert me, then my biology teacher came in and made them shut the fuck up.

  15. Thanks for being just another example. You fail to comprehend what I have to say and so you continue you to through your slander at me. Get away you vagabond.

  16. LOVE Refn's films but had to press pause half way through – CANNOT take Moretti's shitty interviewing any further.

  17. I bet this guy could direct a movie with just Ryan Gosling taking a dump and these pseudo-intellectual will still rave about what a deep film it was.

  18. I liked Only God Forgives, but you had to watch it in the right mindset. It was a movie about forgiveness but the whole theme was like a fairy tale (like Jack and Jill or Hansel and Gretel), once you understood the unspoken parts of the movie, it's really cool.

  19. An intellectual is just someone who is well read, it doesn't mean you're intelligent. It was a good film. Your 'review' of it is all you need to know that you are stupid.

  20. A piece of paper doesn't mean anything. You can be learned, but at the same time not an intellectual. Even the stupidest people I knew in school made good grades.

  21. Yeah it's almost like European's like to talk with their hands a lot or something… You'd fucking hate it in Italy dude!

  22. I'd personally argue that he is correct, I think it is pretty narcissistic and arrogant to be a self labeled intellectual.I can't ever remember someone I have any respect for actually describing themselves as such. There's also 3 starkly different, generally accepted definitions of "intellectual". I assume you're claiming to be an intellectual in the sense that your profession (which you strangely omitted) demands high intellectual function within realm(s) of the esoteric.

  23. I love people who try and tarnish your image with YouTube comments because you disagree with them about a movie and you personally believe it was a terrible movie. Incredible haha. An intellectual is generally somebody who has multiple degrees, a prestigious profession, and is well read. Oh by the way, it wasn't a 'review'. I never said that it was. It is my opinion. Sorry I disagreed with you, you stolid imbecile.

  24. Well it seems that many dull, simple people on YouTube do not realize when somebody is trying to have a sense of humor. And actually I am not a 'self-labeled intellectual.' I have been called one many times by many professors, and other intellectuals. Talk about arrogance! You do not even know me as a person, how could you judge me at any level? Talk about arrogance! Sad how small and petulant people can be over a YouTube comment. It leaves me with great distress to see the world we now live in!

  25. Only God Forgives is a horrible almost comical at times flick, this "deep thinker" director started to believe his own hype!

  26. and somebody really needs to get him to understand the difference between adverbs and adjectives. in every single fucking interview i've heard him saying that he shoots his films in chronologically order. it physically hurts and no one corrects him. 

  27. "Fear X" is actually a very good movie. Maybe it's not a Refn movie as we know them now, but it still works as a piece unto itself.

  28. incredible interview! felt like both Refn and the interviewer were on point and those last 5 min. about inspiration/creative process were so eye opening.

  29. the is the best interview i've ever seen PS: 90% of people that dont like Only God Forgives or even hate Drive dont actually know what the films are really about? Refn's films are old fashioned in a way were most films that come out today are purely for visual engagement where everything is giving to you on a silver platter…some films do have meaning but the meaning are very simple and still most people dont realize them anyway eg. Star Trek Into Darkness is about family and what you would do for them, unless you've watched it at least 5/6 times you wont know that though

    but Refn's films are like poetry, i'm using poetry bc last year in school we were made to analyse poems, 1st time you read it, it doesn't really mean anything or sometimes make sense at all, but when you go through it again and again, and say 'why this' 'why that' then it becomes true art and a masterpiece. Refn's films need to be watched and analysed, most people watch films once/twice and dont research about directors or influences like this interview. 

    Hence why Refn gets stupid amounts of praise from arthouse film industries, filmmakers and people who tend to like this film have analysed it themselves THEN gets hate from normal movie goers who just want to see entertainment. PERSONALLY OGF isnt my fav film by a mile but is very interesting and smart

  30. This is such an intimate interview with nicolas, is a shame that VICE chooses to show off their staff working in the background. This guy is a philosopher: pay attention people! 

  31. i watched this movie, and mind you, i enjoy arthouse flicks but i really gotta say this was the biggest piece of shit iv'e ever seen. it left me feeling like "fuck you ryan gosling, thats 2 hours you owe me that i'll never get back."

  32. Eddy Moretti try being more okay with silence when interviewing, you keep interrupting with hmms and the like, let him speak with more continuity instead of breaking it up so much. Great interview though.

  33. I was mixed with Only God Forgives because I thought the story wasn't completely explained and lacking, but I also thought the cinematography was completely engrossing. 

  34. Eddy(on bronson and valhalla rising: "which one is your favorite?"
    Nic:  "You can't. Its hard, i have 2 kids.. It's not Sofies Choice

  35. You guys need to realize that this film is supposed to be very poetic, beautiful and interpretive. This film for me was different and far more rememberable than any Avengers movie.

  36. I thought this was over all a great interview, and informative, but slightly frustrating, I just really wanted to hear nicholas speak on his own

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