MY LIFE Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn Fantastic Fest Review
It’s always a tricky business offering a look behind the curtain. Even the most revealing documentary is something that is by its very nature edited and shaped out of countless hours of footage. In its own way a look behind a persona by its very nature has to be as calculated as the persona itself.
And yet My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn feels extraordinarily intimate. The film follows Nicolas Winding Refn as he relocates his family to Bangkok to shoot his controversial Only God Forgives, a film that divided opinion the way Moses divided the Red Sea. Refn’s has as well developed and imposing a persona as anyone making films today. But My Life Directed By Nicolas Wending Refn is made by Liv Corfixen, the director’s spouse and if anyone is capable of cutting through how we like to present ourselves to how we actually are, it is our significant others. Refn often directly addresses the camera, clearly speaking to the person behind it as directly and openly as he is capable.
The Refn who emerges in Corfixen’s film is by turns imperious and vulnerable. Possessed by a strong vision for what he wants his film to be and constantly undercut by doubt. It is a remarkably honest, not always flattering portrait by any measure. And yet Refn is ultimately a sympathetic figure. People have compared the film to Hearts Of Darkness, Eleanor Coppola’s film about Francis Ford Coppola’s shoot of Apocalypse Now. The difference being that Corfixen actually seems to still like Refn by the end of it.
There are the usual oddities and pleasures of the behind the scenes documentary. Including a cameo by Alejandro Jodorowsky moonlighting as the worst marriage counselor ever and Refn gifting a perpetually amused Ryan Gosling with blanket to wrap around himself while he directs to retain his Chi. But the striking thing about My Life Directed is the unguarded moments where the father, husband and filmmaker all merge into a complex and multifaceted personality. Sometimes playful, sometimes petulant and often surprisingly endearing. Like 20,000 Days On Earth another documentary that some would say is too intertwined with its subject to provide an objective picture the subjectivity between director and subject seem to have resulted in a more complete and honest portrait rather than a more guarded one. An outsider might find Refn with his defenses raised, as with Nick Cave in 20,000 by being promised some level of control and insight into the project Refn seems to have become comfortable enough to lower his armor.
Rich and complex at just under an hour, My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn is a singular and rewarding film.