Thursday, March 8, 2012


For his third feature, Fear X, Danish-born director Nicolas Winding Refn brings his uniquely effective eye for cinematic violence to America.  He couldn't have chosen two more appropriate symbols for the country than the film's setting--a shopping mall--and the violence with which the plot concerns itself; it's located in the past, connoting a history of violence, as well as the dark potential for future mayhem.

Harry Caine (John Turturro) spends his days as a rent-a-cop in a Midwestern shopping mall.  He squanders his nights pouring over vhs tapes filled with security footage.  What Harry is looking for is an answer to his grief; his wife was murdered in the parking lot of his workplace.  He says he's not in search of "who" as much as "why."

With a tightly-wound script written by Refn and novelist Hubert Selby Jr. (Last Exit to Brooklyn, Requiem for a Dream), the film offers little solace to the viewer that such questions will be answered, focusing instead on the obsession and repetition that has supplanted the vitality that one assumes once constituted Harry's existence.

As in Drive (as well as other works by its director), the influence of David Lynch is palpable in Fear X.  Refn's co-opting of Lynchian atmospherics doesn't attempt to replicate the great surrealist's works, necessarily.  Whereas Lynch employs his stylistic excesses to explore the extremes of human nature, Refn is less interested in the analytical than he is in scenarios and environments that sort individuals into the roles they are compelled to perform.

We're not talking Joseph Campbell here, though; Harry is neither a hero, nor particularly suited to the task that he must complete.  He does undertake a journey that, depending on how you read the ending, is either frustratingly literal or symbolic in nature.

And that ending is a humdinger, I tell ya.  It's likely to upset the same people who strongly disliked the conclusion of No Country for Old MenBut adventurous film goers (you know who you are); those who love nothing more than a post-screening breakdown of a movie, will be thrilled by what's offered up here.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I enjoyed Fear X more than DriveBOOM!  I said it.

Fear X will screen at the NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium (in the Portland Art Museum) on March 11th at 5pm & March 14th at 7pm.  The film is part of the retrospective series, Driven: The Films of Nicolas Winding Refn.

Related links:
The Films of Nicolas Winding Refn: Pusher
The Films of Nicolas Winding Refn: Pusher II: With Blood on My Hands 
The Films of Nicolas Winding Refn: Pusher III: I'm the Angel of Death
The Films of Nicolas Winding Refn: Drive

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