If you haven't already watched the new red-band Only God Forgives trailer, then do yourself a favor and hit that up immediately before we get into this.
Pretty cool, right? Written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, Only God Forgives (in U.S. theaters July 19) reteams the colorful and violence-prone filmmaker with his Drive star Ryan Gosling for a film that's still a bit mysterious based on this new trailer. On paper it appears to be a story about revenge, with Gosling playing a drug smuggler who's tasked by his mother (Kristen Scott Thomas) to find the man who killed his brother. Refn calls it a "Western set in Bangkok" about "an American looking for religion," further proving that what you think you see with Refn movies is not always what you get.
When you watch Refn work, it's hard not to compare him to his main characters. Aside from the fact that most of his leading men like to beat the crap out of people, in the case of both Gosling characters they're also quiet, calm and collected -- carrying with them a certain style and nuance that's not all that different from Refn himself.
In this video below, Refn takes us on a little scouting tour of Bangkok prior to filming, explaining the difficulties of shooting in a city full of rules and rule breakers. The last bit of it is what we found the most intriguing. Appearing as if it's a shot within one of Refn's own movies, the filmmaker casually sits barefoot and alone in a room that's fairly empty save for a slew of notecards taped to the wall. On these notecards are one-line descriptions of each scene, placed in the order they'll go in. There's no dialogue -- that comes secondary, Refn says -- and his writing process involves him just sitting and staring, playing the film out inside his head.
The whole notecard thing isn't groundbreaking -- plenty of professional writers use notecards and whiteboards to display their scenes so that they can step back and envision the final product as a whole. But there's just something spiritual and fascinating about Refn's process; the way he speaks, slowly, with a relaxed sense of place, even though he's got numerous people barking at him to turn in the script.
He's a loner, a wanderer -- a man so completely swept up in the alternate world he's created that if often feels like he exists here and then somewhere else at the same time.
Much like his characters.