After watching a rough cut of his film Only God Forgives, director Nicolas Winding Refn tells his wife it needs work. It exists between strange and normal: if it’s right in the middle then it’s just nothing. His wife, Liv Corfixen — the documentarian behind My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, examining Refn’s process and personal life — doesn’t take his advice; the film she makes exists between a character portrait of a stress-fueled artist and just another behind the scenes doc. Making it right in the middle; making it nothing.
Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Drive) has long since been an interesting filmmaker. “Interesting” being the operative word; his films often divide critics and audiences alike. “It would be boring if we all made safe films,” he says while reading the negative reviews of Only God Forgives. Of course, he’s right, but it doesn’t make Only God Forgives good and it can’t save the ever long title My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn from being simply a glorified making-of documentary.
Like Eleanor Coppola did with Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, Corfixen attempts to document filmmaking’s, and art itself’s, effect on the personal life of its perpetrators. Whereas in Hearts of Darkness, these questions are examined naturally due to a significantly hellish production, My Life Directed, has Corfixen seemingly create these conflicts artificially; she forcibly instigates her husband, showcases disconnected scenes of quotidian personal-life-Refn, with inconsequential scenes from production, and all-in-all has a less subtle depiction of filmmaking and its effects.
My Life Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn has some great moments from production, including a sequence where Refn and his star Ryan Gosling travel two hours for a screening of their previous success, Drive, in order to collect a $40,000 paycheck for added production; these behind the scenes moments will satisfy any fan of filmmaking. But the film as a whole fails to deliver on anything more