Fantastic Fest Interview With Liv Corfixen & Nicolas Winding Refn

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Liv Corfixen’s My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn is a remarkably intimate film equally insightful about the making of Only God Forgives and the complicated interplay of marriage. It’s an excellent film and it was my privelege to sit down with the pair and talk to them about it.

I was wondering if you could tell me a little about your early career, was documentary a form you always wanted to work in?

Liv Corfixen: I was an actor for eight years- but I’ve always been taking pictures. I wanted to be a photographer when I was real young, my parents were in the film industry and I grew up in that environment so I thought of making documentaries. Twice in my life before this I started making a documentary and then I got pregnant and was really sick for nine months. It stopped me every time. But it felt sort of natural to do it. I didn’t plan to do a documentary when we moved to Bangkok it was just sort of an idea so I could go to work and not just be a house wife. It just sort of evolved.

The intimacy of the film is extraordinary the only antecedent really is Hearts Of Darkness, but this feels so much more compassionate. Was there any worries about getting behind the persona this much and were there any other film documentaries you were thinking of while making it?

LC: I knew that I wouldn’t do a glamorous official documentary where actors sat and said, “Oh we just love Nicolas he’s so fantastic.” I knew that I’d have a different approach, that it would be more personal and real and not just the glamorous side, because it’s not so glamorous when you’re doing it, or live it.

I watched Hearts Of Darkness in Bangkok because everybody was telling me to watch it, “Oh you’re doing a documentary about Nicolas you should see it.” So I watched it and I liked it. But it wasn’t what I had in mind as I was doing it. I was more inspired by some of my Mother’s work- she used to make really weird films in the seventies, short film that she and some of her girlfriends did. Documentaries, sort of seventies filmmaking. I was more inspired by something like that. Then a woman made a film about eight years ago about Nicolas called Gambler, and I sort of knew that I would have a different approach than that.

Nicolas you have a pretty austere persona, was there any worries on your end about letting that drop?

Nicolas Winding Refn: You got to go all the way. You can’t do anything half heartedly. And also I found it very therapeutic to say all these things and not have to worry about it. Because I wouldn’t have to deal with it until the movie is over. Whether it’s the anxiety of… It’s almost like saying ‘Alright there’s this elephant in the room.’ Let’s talk about it. We live in a world of very superficial- connections. It can be a very, very superficial world where it’s all about an image outwards. I always say, the red carpet starts somewhere and it ends somewhere. What’s interesting is not the carpet, but what it feels like starting and what it feels like ending.

The runtime [just under an hour] is an interesting element. I wasn’t sure how it would work but it felt just right. How did you come to that runtime?

LC: Well it just felt like the right length in the editing room. Before I had a sense that it should be longer so that it would fit for cinema but it just feels right. Otherwise there would be too many funny scenes of Nicolas and Ryan and there’s enough of that. (chuckles).

I thought that way it may only end up on TV- but I’ve sold it to a Paris company so it will play in cinemas.

I had a hard time dealing with Only God Forgives at first, until a friend advised that I think of it as your Michael Powell film, going back to it with that way I found it a much richer experience. Was he a direct influence on Only God Forgives?

Well I think Michael Powell is one of the unsung geniuses of filmmaking, whether it’s A Matter Of Life And Death or Peeping Tom. I think he is truly one of the great storytellers and his boldness is incredible. So not consciously but I’m sure subconsciously. You’re always a product of you’re experiences, just like you’re a product of your growing up.

Any idea what’s next?

I don’t know yet. But I’d definitely like to do another documentary at some point.

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The Author

Bryce Wilson

Bryce Wilson

Confirmed film geek and literary nerd. Writer for Paracinema and Art Decades Magazine, columnist for the San Luis Obispo New Times and author of Son Of Danse Macabre. Resides in Austin, TX.