I’m reminded of an ironic joke about proper use of punctuation that goes like this:
The instructor walks up to the chalkboard and writes the following words – woman without her man is nothing – then turns to the class, and says, “Punctuate this sentence correctly.”
The men all punctuate it as “Woman, without her man, is nothing.” For the women, it’s “Woman: Without her, man is nothing.”
In the worst case, people hold these as truths. But in the best case, loving couples hold these as truths as well. And for the present, at least, it would seem that between Liv Corfixen and Nicholas Winding Refn, the best case is holding sway.
Given his cinematic stature, the title rolls off the tongue as being a piece by Refn himself, and indeed, all the reviews available as of this writing lean heavily into analysis of his [often achingly painful] creative process, largely and often to the exclusion of Corfixen, who is treated as documentarian of the genius filmmaker.
But this isn’t “My Life Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn,” it’s “My Life Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn,” and as with the joke, the difference is material. As Corfixen captures a striking portrait of Refn as he strives to create his follow-up to “Drive” under an extreme amount of pressure and public expectation, she also captures its emotional effect on the man she loves, and on the family he loves.
Given the cost to the marriage and family exacted by Refn’s 10-month absence while filming “Drive”, Corfixen and their two small daughters have joined him this time on location in Bangkok for the 6-month shoot of “Only God Forgives”. And while it’s preferable to being apart, the move actually accentuates the family’s imbalance. As with many a spouse married to someone with a career “so big,” Corfixen finds her own life experience eclipsed and consumed by Refn’s, and struggles to balance the needs of the one with the needs of the many.
Her film gives voice to her legitimate strain without complaining, and tangentially succeeds in sharing with all of us the remarkable personal experience and inner turmoil of one of the finest writer/directors working today.
Through Corfixen’s lens, we glimpse their struggle and their love, and comprehend her trade-offs, coming away from her story with a genuine compassion for this extraordinarily ordinary family’s experience, and joining in their optimism for the future of the couple’s delicately rock-solid relationship.
(And just for the record, Refn is not “the guy who made ‘Drive'” – he’s the guy who made “Bronson”. ;) )
Story: (Documentary) Writer/director Liv Corfixen documents the experience of joining husband Nicholas Winding Refn on location as he films “Only God Forgives”.
Featuring: Nicolas Winding Refn, Ryan Gosling
Directed by: Liv Corfixen
Themes: Balance, Creativity, Love and Attachment, Man vs. Himself, Teamwork
Opening Date: “My Life Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn” opens Feb 27, 2015 on Video on Demand and some theater locations; check your local listings for details.
Screened via studio screener Feb 19, 2015