In the new behind-the-scenes documentary about Only God Forgives, My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, we meet more than a writer/director caught up in his craft. We also meet a father and husband sharing his self-doubt with his truest confidant: his wife, Liv Corfixen. Speaking via Skype with her husband, Nicolas Winding Refn, at her side, she says, “All that fear and doubt, of course, it’s only me who sees that. That’s why I thought I could make it a very personal film … as Nicolas said, he can’t show that side to everyone else because he has to be on top of the world. That’s why I thought it could be a good idea if I made it because it gets more intimate and personal, and that side you don’t get to see.”
“For Liv it’s like, here we go again,” Refn adds.
The couple have been married 20 years and have two daughters, ages 4 and 10. Corfixen is an actress in their native Denmark, and she appeared in small roles in Refn’s early films. But the documentary she has produced is their greatest collaboration yet. Even though, she admits, whenever she sees him caught up in movie productions, she feels left out of the marriage. “All the time. All the time,” affirms Refn.
“Early on, it was easier for me, I guess,” she says, “but as the years go by, I sort of find it harder in a way, or maybe it’s because we started to join him on those trips. Whereas, before, I sort of stayed behind in Denmark with the children, and that was too hard on our marriage, and then we decided to come along every time, like we did in Bangkok, cause then we see him more, but sometimes you get the feeling that you are left out because he’s constantly in a meeting all weekend … but you know it’s only for a few months, so you kinda live with it. It’s not like I’m complaining. It’s just sometimes I feel, oh, we got to get those eight weeks over with, so we can have normal life again.”
Right now the couple and their children are in Los Angeles where Refn is in the middle of shooting his next movie, The Neon Demon. In My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn, Corfixen captured him anxiously running his fingers through his hair, as he declared about his movie, “I don’t know what it’s about.” It would also seem a little futile to ask him what Neon Demon is about, at this point. When asked about his new film, he said he “kinda” knows what it’s about, but that could change. “I shoot in chronological order,” he explains, “so everything’s a constant evolution.”
Asked now what he thinks Only God Forgives is about, Refn answers: “I think it’s about many things, but of course there’s a very strong undercurrent of an incestuous relationship between a mother and her son set in the world of crime with a backdrop that is very, very alien because being a foreigner in Thailand is essentially like going to the moon, so there’s a very strong science-fiction-esque element to it, and there’s very much a mixture of Asian spirituality where the acceptance of the supernatural world is as normal as eating, which is very alien to Westerners, so therefore it becomes very much like a metaphor for a man’s journey to essentially be — his impotence is because of his amputation, because of his violent nature, because of his mother that everything leads back to all evil.”
After he finished Only God Forgives, Refn showed a fascination with the film’s many negative reviews. “I guess there’s almost a kind of sadomasochistic joy in it because, deep down, I know they’re wrong,” he admits.
“But it’s also fun,” adds his wife, who listens to him read a negative review in her documentary.
“It’s kind of enjoying the hatred that essentially has no effect. There’s a kind of Machiavellian joy in it,” adds Refn.
Full disclosure. I was among those who wrote a negative review of Only God Forgives. Although, I like to keep “hatred” out of my judgement: Film Review: ‘Only God Forgives’ is a problematic, distancing art film.
One thing we have in common is an affection for Chilean cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky. He appears in My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn during two revealing tarot readings for both Refn and Corfixen. “Alejandro is all truth,” notes Refn before he explains how important the tarot readings are to him. “I’ve been using him a lot. I’ve also been using him in this movie, regularly. It’s always good, whenever in doubt, call the Jodorowsky hotline. It’s very much part of the game. Obstacles inspire creativity.”
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You can read much more of my conversation with this creative couple, including a fun little argument between them about the possibility that Corfixen may not be a huge fan of his work either, jump through the logo for the Miami New Times Arts section below to read this part of our conversation:
My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn runs 58 minutes, is in Danish and English with English subtitles and is rated PG-13 (there is adult language). It opens exclusively this Friday, May 1, at the Miami Beach Cinematheque at 7 p.m. On the following Saturday, May 2, at 7 p.m., the cinematheque will also host a Skype Q&A with Refn and Corfixen.