This was actually supposed to be a part of five things, but I got so carried away that it got its own post, instead. God, I missed stream of consciousness writing! Awaaaaay we go.
Drive was featured on trailer park a ways back. You can check that out if you haven’t. Fair warning, it’s really spoiler heavy. It’s HERE.
The film’s director, Nicolas Winding Refn, is making quite a name for himself in the world of violent and artistic indie films. This was actually the first of his film’s that I’ve seen, which is odd, because I’ve wanted to see every one of his films (Bronson, Valhalla Rising, Pusher) based on trailers. I’ve got to get my head in the game.
This movie bothered me, but in the best possible way. I couldn’t escape the story, and I’ve wanted to watch it again ever since seeing it. It is a quiet, troubling, tragic, disturbingly violent film that also hints toward a message of imperfect hope.
You don’t have to read this blog very often to know I really enjoy subtle, quiet, understated performances in film. I’m not talking about realism, in the sense of mumblecore, where people try and speak like regular people and not actors. Don’t get me wrong, I like mumblecore. Yet, what I really love is when actors can deliver a ‘less is more’ performance that is full of meaning and emotion, but without over the top drama. It takes a combination of talented actors and strong direction and editing. This film has it in spades. So much is communicated between Ryan Gosling and Carrie Mulligan without any dialogue, or in some scenes, very limited dialogue. I can’t go into more detail without spoilers, but one of the more important scenes in their relationship literally has no words at all. Yet, it was so clear exactly what was happening, what each character was thinking, what the inevitable outcome would be. Let’s talk about this once you’ve seen it, if you see it. Obviously, after saying all that, it is clear I feel that the bulk of the performances in this film are spectacular.
This film offered a very specific take on that sort of less is more storytelling, accentuating that stillness with unspeakable interpersonal violence. I know all violence is interpersonal; I mean it in this context to say that it is all small acts of violence in a one to one situation, as opposed to say, war or genocide. Anyway, unspeakable violence, carried out by people continuing to deliver quiet, understated performances. The result is that the violence is all the more arresting and troubling, and the characters display the deep rage that would be necessary for this sort of violence to be possible. There is no maniacal laughter, no firing a gun in the air and going “Ahhhh!”, no one-liner after killing someone. This is a story of violent men, communicating in the only tragic way they know how, without the punches of that tragedy pulled.
I suppose it could actually be said that this is a film of juxtapositions. Sweetness and violence, love and rage, innocence and depravity. These things are all placed next to each other in the film in ways that are inescapable. Each element that is juxtaposed is thrown into starker contrast by how well Refn quietly sets them next to each other. There is never a point where we as the audience don’t know what’s coming, and yet that adds to the weight of each scene.
And yes, with all that juxtaposition, they do have a scene of slow, sweet, sad music juxtaposed against tension and oncoming violence at one point in the film. It is a moment in film that clearly always teeters between ‘staple’ and ‘cliché’. In this case, I think it works as a staple, because of how perfectly executed it is. For one, it isn’t working as a glorification or stylization of violence. Instead, for me, it offered a sadness and surreality to the tension of the scene. While it also shows you the heart of the film when you listen to the lyrics of the Riz Ortolani penned score (because Refn joined Tarantino in taking old Ortolani music and using it in his film),
/ oh my love, look and see the sun rising from the river / nature’s miracle once more will light the world / but this light is not for those men, still lost in an old black shadow / won’t you help me to believe that they will see a day, a brighter day, when all the shadow’s will fade away /
That is such a beautiful use of, and response to, violence in storytelling. All the violence in this film costs something. This is a post-modern action film that never lets you enjoy the violence on a simple cathartic level. It holds violence in a way that shows that violence always destroys the perpetrator along with the victim. The sunlight of the story is blackened by these men lost in an old black shadow, yet we are left holding onto hope for something more.
The soundtrack is one of my favorites. Refn was so meticulous in picking songs that played behind the story lyrically. I’m also not sure why he chose to go with a electro synth-pop vibe, and retro aesthetic for much of the film’s visuals, but I love it. As I also love all those slow motion scenes that use music and facial queues to carry the emotional arc of the film. Oh, and speaking of faces, some faces are just more kissable than others, and for my money, Carrie Mulligan has the most kissable face in movies today. Wee-ow!
I can’t leave this movie alone.
Hmm, maybe I can find someone to suffer through this with me over the next week.