My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn (2014)

Liv Corfixen documents her husband, filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn, during the production and release of his movie Only God Forgives (2013).
  • 6.5 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
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  • Lene Børglum, Producer:


7 / 10

Family Affair

Greetings again from the darkness. For those of us born without the "creative" gene, it can be quite intriguing to get even a quick peek behind the curtain of an at-work auteur or creative genius. Blend in the highly stressful family dynamics of having one's spouse behind the camera for this peek, and it shoots right past intriguing and into the realm of captivatingly mandatory viewing ? and provides double meaning to the title.

Nicolas Winding Refn is the creative force behind such films as Drive (2011) and Bronson (2008). Now elevated from his status as cult-favorite, this behind-the-scenes documentary explores his pressure and anxiety of the next project (Only God Forgives) – one the director proclaims "is not Drive 2". While that is more than sufficient for a premise, this one adds the unique complexity of having NWR's wife direct and shoot the documentary. Because of this, we gain a highly unusual look at the added stress of personal and family life, as the whole family (including their two daughters) spends six months in Bangkok.

The film begins with an odd sequence showing legendary director Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo) reading tarot cards at the request of NWR. The resulting advice is that success can change an artist's approach, and in a quite off-setting moment, Mr Jodorowsky directly addresses Liv Corfixen (as she films) and admonishes her to support her man. This certainly sets the stage for the relationship strains during production and up to the Cannes premiere of Only God Forgives.

"How to make a movie" is not the focus here, though we do see the storyboarding and some director-actor interactions (Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas). Rather, the camera lens is aimed at what impact making a movie has on the director and his family. He struggles with "what the audience wants" (more Drive) versus "what the artist wants". A key line from NWR is "It would be boring if we all made the same films". And therein lies the motivation and challenge for a true auteur – how to remain true to one's artistic vision, while still remaining commercially viable (a requirement if one wishes to continue creating).

Ms. Corfixen doesn't shy away from filming the many moods and insecurities of her husband ? sometimes filming him in bed, hinting that remaining there might be an option. We see the confidence of the director on set, but more interestingly, his ups and downs, and his various happy-depressed-angry moments while in the privacy of the family apartment (well as private as it can get with a camera in one's face).

Being a film director is an odd combination of processes – both collaborative and solitary. Having one's family along for the ride brings an added challenge that taxes one's patience. Performing all of this with one's spouse filming most of it exposes parts of one's character and make-up that most of us would prefer stay hidden from public consumption. Upon reflection, maybe it is an effective starter kit for "how to make a movie".

9 / 10

Makes me feel like I'm not as crazy as I sometimes think I am!

'MY LIFE DIRECTED BY NICOLAS WINDING REFN': Four and a Half Stars (Out of Five)

Documentary film about the making of the controversial 2013 crime drama flick 'ONLY GOD FORGIVES'; which was written and directed by Nicols Winding Refn. It was directed and filmed by first time feature filmmaker Liv Corfixen; Refn's wife. It features appearances by Refn, Corfixen, their two daughters, Ryan Gosling (the star of 'ONLY GOD FORGIVES' and 'DRIVE'; which was also helmed by Refn) and another equally popular cult filmmaker; Alejandro Jodorowsky. Refn previously appeared in the 2013 documentary film 'JODOROWSKY'S DUNE'; which was about Jodorowksy's failed attempts to make his own ambitious version of the popular science fiction novel 'Dune'. I found this documentary feature to be extremely insightful, oddly interesting and equally emotionally involving.

The film takes place during the six-month shoot of 'ONLY GOD FORGIVES', in Bangkok, from the beginning of the filming process till it's premier; at the Cannes Film Festival. Corfixen follows her husband around (with a camera) as he obsessively contemplates every individual step, and unique decision, of the making of that critically polarized film. Refn constantly questions whether the movie will be good enough, and if it's unique and different enough; from his universally praised 2011 masterpiece 'DRIVE'. Corfixen also talks to Gosling, Jodorowsky and their two kids about what they think of Refn and his insane filmmaking process.

The movie really delves deep into how the success of 'DRIVE' has caused Refn just as much stress, and self doubt, as it has joy. He constantly compares his new film to his last (very popular) feature. It does a great job of showing the madness that critical praise, and Box Office success, can cause a skilled and talented filmmaker; such as Refn. The documentary is only 60 minutes long and, while it could have been just a special feature on the 'ONLY GOD FORGIVES' video release, I think the short running length makes it that much more enjoyable. We see just enough of Refn's life, during the filming of that movie, to get a good feel and understanding of the mental state he was in. I actually like 'ONLY GOD GORGIVES' better than 'DRIVE' and I think this is a unique masterpiece, in its own right, too. Seeing how mentally unstable Refn was (during the making of this documentary) actually makes me feel like I'm not as crazy as I sometimes think I am; or at least I'm not alone in my obsessive mental illness!

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3 / 10

Hearts of farceness

The only way I can reason the existence of this is that it must be a spoof on Hearts of Darkness ('91). An acclaimed director following up a hugely successful movie and way over his head in his next project. Even down to the wife documenting the experience. It was a formula that worked before, so why not? Except, Apocalypse Now was an amazing film with (dare I say) an even more interesting production back story. Which is why that documentary worked and this one did not. This to me is the product of a cocky director just kind of winging his next project based on his clout. And I think adding this documentary idea along with it is proof that he knew the movie wouldn't be good, so he tried to at least get something creative and interesting out of it. Except, it's a blatant rip off and all it did was expose himself to being an unoriginal giant man baby, completely turning off his audience to anything that might have been interesting about him in the first place. One of the main reasons I have no faith in Nicolas Winding Refn anymore. Drive will forever be a classic. Hopefully he can find that stroke again. Just hope he doesn't feel the need to document it.