Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Film Review: Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives (2013) 90min

(Figure 1: Only God Forgives Poster)

Only God Forgives, is a Danish-Thai co-production crime thriller film written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn in 2013. It involves the story of an American man named Julian, a Thai Club owner, who is the front of a massive drug smuggling operation. The story begins with his brother, Billy, who brutally rapes and murders an underage prostitute, who then sets the trail of on going murders throughout the film. From many online and written reviews, this film is a representative of the 'Marmite' category; as said by Alistair Harkness in his film review, ''It's a film destined to be either loved or despised. Both reactions seem equally valid.'' (Harkness, 2013) Therefore, this film can either grip you or loose you within long, eerie, silent pauses and eye-popping colours.

(Figures 2 - 4: Emphasis on 'Hands')

Throughout the film, there seems to be an occurring theme about 'man' and his hands, specially around women, murder and punishment. As Nicolas Wrobel states in his review; "The key images to understanding the whole thing are the hands and the sword, both of which represent crime and ultimately punishment. Such images tell the story, and help to define Julian as a character.'' (Wrobel, 2013) What Wrobel is saying, is that the many moments to where we see the camera focusing on Julians hands has a much more deeper and emotional meaning. As said by his mother, Crystal, later on in the film; Julian had murdered his farther with his bare hands, which could be the entire reason to Julians hallucinations of punishment about the loss of his hands. This act is also represented with the lack of ability for him to touch any woman but his mother, shown erotically when he puts his hand within the womb of his mothers corpse.

(Above, Figure 5: Crystal)       (Below, Figure 6: Disney's Cruella Deville)

In most situations within the film, the main antagonist appears to be Julians mother, Crystal. Wherever she is, she is covered with sickly, corrupted colours to fit and emphasize her odd, abusive and wicked nature, and is never seen without a cigarette. The smoking of the cigarette seems to be a symbolic act of such expression relating to Crystal, and has a much more significant meaning to first impressions. Whenever Crystal is abusive, upset, angry and so on, she lights up and inhales the cigarette smoke. It is as though she is slowly inhaling her emotions and hatred that seems to be slowly destroying her; both mentally and emotionally. Her cynical acts makes her the character of the film, with a hint of 'Cruella Deville' finesse.

To conclude, Only God Forgives is a film based on a hidden desire yet 'hatred' towards the female existence that create a very thick atmosphere to contemporary audiences. It leaves you with an  almost anti-climax yet overly dramatized emotion that don't always make sense. As Craig Seligman says in his film review; ''Ludicrous, awful, irresistible!'' (Seligman, 2013) From start to finish, the film fills you with thoughts of character, production and mood, and has a hint of resemblance from past films, such as; Black Narcissus and Suspiria.


Harkness, A. (2013) Only God Forgives Film Review URL At: http://www.scotsman.com/what-s-on/film/film-review-only-god-forgives-18-1-3028388 (Accessed on 10.12.2013)

Seligman, C. (2013) Only God Forgives Film Review URL At:

Wrobel, H. (2013) Only God Forgives Film Review URL At:

Illustration List

Fig. 1. Only God Forgives Poster (2013) From: Only God Forgives Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn [Poster] Denmark/Thailand. Radius-TWC. URL At: 

Fig. 2 - 4. Emphasis on 'Hands' (2013) From: Only God Forgives Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn [Film Stills] Denmark/Thailand. Radius-TWC. URL At: http://davechisholmmusicandcomics.tumblr.com/post/60325273517/only-god-forgives-hands-requested-by (Accessed on 10.12.2013)

Fig. 5. Crystal (2013) From: Only God Forgives Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn [Film Still] Denmark/Thailand. Radius-TWC. URL At: http://xmedia.ex.ac.uk/wp/wordpress/review-only-god-forgives/ (Accessed on 10.12.2013)

Fig. 6. Cruella Deville (1961) From: One Hundred and One Dalmatians Directed by: Clyde Geronimi [Film Still] United States. Buena Vista Distribution. URL At:
http://skatingbuffalo.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/wicked-wednesday-cruella-deville.html (Accessed on 10.12.2013)

1 comment:

  1. Just a couple of points Heidi - be careful of your spellings and don't just rely on the spellchecker; for example, you have 'farther' instead of 'father' and 'whom' instead of 'womb'... Talking of his mother's womb, you might have wanted to dig a little deeper here (yuck!) and have had a look at Freud's ideas on the womb as 'home' - good article here;


    If you are going to introduce an image of a character from another film, you really need to provide a bit more in the way of background or comparison; at the moment Cruella Deville is sitting there rather strangely, in amongst all the blood and gore :) Also, make sure that you put the dates by the other films that you mention.