Nicolas Winding Refn (born 29 September 1970) is a Danish filmmaker who rose to prominence by writing and directing the Pusher trilogy. Prior to these films, the idea of a Danish crime film was laughable. Refn shattered that notion, crafting a trilogy that has become infamous for its bleak outlook and utterly uncompromising style. Born in 1970 to parents who worked in film, he moved to the United States when he was eleven and filmed Pusher when he was twenty-six. His films tend to focus on crime and violence, coupled with more existential themes like morality and spirituality. In recent years he seems to focus most of his films on larger-than-life masculine protagonists with violent tendencies.
Known in Denmark as "l'Enfant Sauvage".
- Pusher (1996)
- Bleeder (1999)
- Fear X (2003)
- Pusher II (2004)
- Pusher III (2005)
- Bronson (2008)
- Valhalla Rising (2009)
- Drive (2011)
- Only God Forgives (2013)
- The Neon Demon (2016)
- Too Old To Die Young (2019)
Refn's body of work provide example of:
- Being Evil Sucks: First used in the Pusher series, where Refn intentionally portrayed the criminal underworld as unglamorous. Many of his other films feature immoral characters suffering as a result of their character flaws and lifestyle.
- Fan Disservice: A specialty of his. He can make very beautiful people distinctly unnerving to look at.
- A good example is Gosling in both Drive and Only God Forgives, Mad Mikkelsen in Valhalla Rising and Abby Lee in The Neon Demon.
- Full-Frontal Assault: In Bronson and Pusher II.
- He Also Did: This director of stylish, transgressive films also directed two episodes of Agatha Christie's Marple, the Matthew McConaughey Lincoln commercials and a series of Danish beer commercials featuring actor.
- Irony: Despite directing Drive where he makes it look incredibly cool, he has never learned to drive and failed his test multiple times.
- Mind Screw: He could give David Lynch a run for his money on this one.
- Motifs: Men making their own mythology: Bronson, Valhalla Rising, Drive and Only God Forgives.
- Production Posse: All his Danish films have been scored by Peter Kyed and punkrocker Peter Peter, since Drive he has has Cliff Martinez provide the music, since working on Miss Marple, Matthew Newman has been his editor, Morten Søborg & Larry Smith are his cinematographers of choice and as far as actors are concerned he frequently casts Mads Mikkelsen (5 films), Zlatko Buric (4 films), Levino Jensen (3 films) and Gordon Brown (3 films).
- Rule of Cool/Rule of Symbolism
- Signature Style:
- Most of his films center on violence, criminality and mythological theme.
- His soundtracks often include electronic music or punk rock. Notable pioneer of using '80s-throwback Synthwave music as a score.
- Refn's films usually feature heavy use of contrast and primary colors, with at least one scene bathed in a single color of light, usually red. Refn does this because he is colorblind.
- Behind the scenes, Refn usually shoots in chronological order because it's easier for him to think the film through. In the Pusher films it was helpful because it also helped the non-actor supporting cast in their roles.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The music often contrasts to the events happening around it.
- Only God Forgives often sets karaoke lounge music against shocking violence
- For Pusher II, Refn consulting real Danish criminals and discovered that their taste in music was very uncool. For this reason, several scenes featuring powerful criminals have soundtracks of very lame, "eurotrashy" music.
- Sunshine Noir: Many of his films feature noirish settings, graphic violence and focus on seedy antiheros, while often being set in sun-drenched surroundings.