The 10 Most Interesting Directors of the Now: Nicolas Winding Refn


First up in our look at the 10 Most Interesting Directors of the Now was Edgar Wright for his ADHD style of film-making. Next we take a step into the surreal with Nicolas Winding Refn.

Argue with that name. I dare you.

Although his name is relatively new to English speaking audiences, Refn has been working as director for the best part of two decades. Spending his early childhood in Copenhagen before moving to New York for his teenage years, he spent the first part of his career in Denmark with low-key Danish language films. He then made his English language debut with the biopic Brosnon.

"No...no...his name is 'Bane'. Heath Ledger already did that part."

Brosnon achieved critical acclaim for two reasons. Tom Hardy puts in a career defining performance at the title character, terrifying and enthralling at the same time, setting up Refn as a brilliant director of actors. Secondly, it’s a masterpiece of film-making. Favourably compared to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange for it’s parallel themes and tone, this compliment doesn’t acknowledge the originality of the movie. Surreal sequences of Charlie Brosnon addressing a theatre audience in a vaudevillian manner breaks the fourth wall in ways not yet seen, giving viewers the sense of being exposed to a mind we could never understand.

Whilst his next film, Valhalla Rising, slipped under the net for many and split critics opinions (overall receiving a decent average) it was his third English language film that cemented his reputation as one to watch.

Drive combines one of the coolest casts in the business with a fresh take on an established genre. Gosling, Mulligan, Hendricks, Pearlman and Cranston are enough talent to pull in audiences, and the premise promised plenty of thrills, but many were surprised to find an almost dreamlike experience that jarred with sudden, brutal violence.

Many people see drive as one of the best movies of 2011, and this claim is an easy on to support. The Lynch-esque soft lighting and colour palette brings the cinematography to the spotlight whilst Ryan Gosling’s stoic character drifts through his scenes until he needs to unleash the vicious creature that lurks beneath the surface. Taking a fresh approach to the action sequences Refn employs a slow, steady pace to car chases and shoot-outs. Simple shots within the car and close-ups on the driver serve to raise the heartbeat of the viewer more than the noise and flashes of a Michael Bay explosion-fest

For his next project Refn reteams with Ryan Gosling for Only God Forgives, in which a Bangkok police officer and a gangster agree to settle their differences in a Thai boxing match. With a new locale to drop his camera into, a strong character driven premise and the promise of more stylised violence, Nicholas Winding Refn looks like he’s going to deliver for brilliance in his own unique style.