Last week, Nicolas Winding Refn, director of the divisive Only God Forgives, came to Film Society to discuss his latest film as part of our Summer Talks series. The film is the provocateur’s second violent, hyper-stylized collaboriation with Ryan Gosling, and features a highly-praised, scenery-chewing turn from Kristen Scott Thomas. During the course of the conversation, Refn addressed the genesis of the film, the practical aspects of filmmaking, and his approach to his inflammatory themes and motifs. For those who were not able to attend the talk in person, we’ve posted the entire conversation on our YouTube channel, and compiled some of our favorite moments below. 

Despite the fantastic elements of his films, Refn spoke about the importance of pragmatism when making films, insisting that a long career depends on smart budgeting:

Though many assumed that Refn cast Ryan Gosling due to the success of their previous collaboration, Drive, the director revealed that Gosling was not his original lead:

Known for his minimal dialogue, Refn discussed baffled reactions to his use of silence and why he considers it to be an important element of cinema:

While his use of silence is considered formally daring, his focus on extreme violence continues to be the most controversial aspect of Refn’s films. During our Summer Talk, he explained his approach of violence as fantasy:

During the audience Q&A portion of the Summer Talk, an aspiring filmmaker asked Refn what advice he had to offer young directors. Refn felt that Elia Kazan said it best with (essentially), “You do you”:

Still not satisfied? Here’s the full Summer Talks Q&A: