Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn is a highly divisive figure in the landscape of contemporary cinema. While some hail Refn’s works like Drive and Bronson as modern masterpieces, others are unsure of their validity. Nevertheless, Refn has managed to make a somewhat significant impression through his highly stylised visual narratives and artificial compositions.
While reflecting on his childhood influences, Refn revealed: “I grew up in a cinema family. My parents were brought up on the French New Wave. That was God to them, but to me it was the antichrist, and how better to rebel against your parents than by watching something your mother is going to hate, which were American horror movies.”
Adding, “When I saw Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I realised: I don’t want to be a director, I don’t want to be a writer, I don’t want to be a producer, I don’t want to be a photographer, I don’t want to be an editor, I don’t want to be a sound man. I want to be all of them at once. And that film proved that you can do it because that movie is not a normal movie.”
In a conversation with New Hollywood auteur William Friedkin, Refn discussed the credibility of his own works and insisted that he should be compared to the likes of Orson Welles and Stanley Kubrick. He also made the outrageous claim that his 2013 crime drama Only God Forgives is a masterpiece, a film that was critically panned and booed off at Cannes.
“I am like you. I have no regrets about Only God Forgives, I think it is a masterpiece and it is,” Refn declared. Upon hearing this, the shock on Friedkin’s face was clearly visible which urged him to ask around: “Is there a doctor in the house? We need to get a medic in here.”
Friedkin asked: “If you think that is a masterpiece, what is Citizen Kane?” to which Refn nonchalantly replied: “It’s great but it was a very inexpensive movie.” Disgusted by Refn’s petulance, Friedkin burst out in complete outrage: “Who gives a shit?”.
Embarrassed after being put in his place, the Danish filmmaker gathered up the courage to inform Friedkin that he “[had] two questions left,” but Friedkin immediately shut him down and called for medical attention again: “I have a third, where is there a medic for this man?”.
However, Refn continued his cheeky comments and demanded that his films should be mentioned in the same breath as some of the finest cinematic masterpieces of the 20th century. “You were mentioning 2001, Citizen Kane. You forgot to add Drive. We’ll let that slip,” he commented.
“We won’t know about Drive in another 30 years, whether it lives or dies… 2001 was made in 1968,” Friedkin stated. When Refn informed him that he had made Drive 4 years ago, the auteur bellowed: “Four years is a zip, it’s not even a blip. It’s not a pimple on the asshole of humanity. 2001 was made in 1968 and holds up… better than all this similar crap. Citizen Kane was made in 1941 and it lives.”