Denmark, France


Julian, an Englishman living in Bangkok, is a respected figure in the criminal underworld. He and his brother Billy run a Thai boxing club which is in fact a front for smuggling drugs to London. When Billy is murdered, their mother Crystal arrives from London to bring back the body. Crystal is herself the head of a powerful criminal organization and Is used to getting exactly what she wants. She sets out to settle the score along a bloody path of rage, betrayal and vengeance, hurtling toward an ultimate confrontation and the possibility of redemption.

Director's Statement

The original concept for the film was to make a movie about a man who wants to fight God. That is, of course, a very vast obstacle but when I was writing the film, I was going through some very existential times in my life – we were expecting our second child and it was a difficult pregnancy – and the idea of having a character who wants to fight God without knowing why very much appealed to me. With that as the concept, I elaborated by adding a character who believes he is God (Chang), obviously the antagonist, with the protagonist being a gangster who is looking for religion to believe in (Julian). This itself is, of course, very existential because faith is based on the need for a higher answer but most of the time, we don’t know what the question is. When the answer comes, then, we must backtrack our lives in order to find the question. In this way, the film is conceived as an answer, with the question revealed at the end. With hindsight, I am able to see the similarities between Chang and One Eye in VALHALLA RISING, and Driver in DRIVE – all are rooted in fairy tale mythology and have difficulties living in the everyday world. I can see that technically, there is a resemblance in their stoic behaviour, silence, and fetishist portraits even though they live in different times and are portrayed by different actors. In VALHALLA RISING, One Eye is enigmatic – we don’t know his past but he is defined by his name. In DRIVE, Driver is defined by his function. And in ONLY GOD FORGIVES, Chang is first of all defined by his enigmatic behaviour, to such an extent that he becomes a disembodied character, an ‘it’, defined not by his name but solely by his image. In a way, ONLY GOD FORGIVES is like an accumulation of all the films I’ve made so far. I think I was heading toward a creative collision, full speed ahead, in order to change everything around me and to see what would come after. I have always said that I set out to make films about women but I end up making films about violent men. Now that everything is colliding, it may end up turning things upside-down for me. This collision is exciting because everything around me becomes so uncertain and we must not forget that the second enemy of creativity, after having ‘good taste’, is being safe.

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn

Written by: Nicolas Winding Refn

Produced by: Lene Børglum, Sidonie Dumas, Vincent Maraval

Cinematography: Larry Smith

Editing: Matthew Newman

Production Design: Beth Mickle

Costume Design: Wasitchaya 'Nampeung' Mochanakul

Original Score: Cliff Martinez

Sound: Kristian Eidnes Andersen

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vitthaya Pansringarm

Nominations and Awards

  • Feature Film Selection 2013