The Films of Nicolas Winding Refn #3 – Fear X (2003)

FEARX-1.jpg-r_640_600-b_1_D6D6D6-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxJust who the hell is this polarizing director anyway? It seems that with every film he releases the receptions have been vastly divided from both critics and audiences alike. Is he too artsy for his own good? Is he no more than a glorifier of senseless violence? Or is he a one-of-a-kind visionary? Maybe he’s none of the above, or all of the above, or something entirely different altogether. Guess there’s only one way to find out. Time to tackle the world of Nicolas Winding Refn one film at a time. My take on his third feature Fear X, after the jump.


Watching Fear X is like trying to construct a jigsaw puzzle that’s missing pieces, and you don’t realize you’re missing them until you’re halfway through the puzzle. Intrigued, even a little, as to what the final picture will be, you continue on with the puzzle, all the while knowing damn well that the end result is going to be full of holes.

This is a film that left me scratching my head, an action that had nothing to do with my latest bout of dry scalp mind you. These scratches came from the disbelief that this was the same filmmaker responsible for the smartly written and fully realized character studies, Pusher and Bleeder.

From what I could gather, this film is about a mall security guard trying to find out who killed his wife, and more importantly, why. Unfortunately, rather than stick to what could have been a rather straight forward character study of a man in grief, the film makes a sharp turn into weirdville as if David Lynch was suddenly given the reigns. The difference here is that Lynch’s abstract story telling does have merit in its existence, even if you don’t understand it on a first, or even second watch. This is not the case in Fear X, as was made apparent by the asinine way in which it plays out and by the fact that Refn said so himself that he couldn’t figure out how to wrap up the film’s loose ends. But hey, at least it looked pretty, right?


Fear X is a first of many things for Refn. Shot in Canada, it’s his first film made outside of his native Denmark. It’s his first film shot in English. Though having already worked with a soon-to-be Hollywood A-lister (Mads Mikkelsen), this was his first time working with one already established; John Turturro. It’s his first time working with a new cinematographer, which meant Morten Søborg was out and newcomer Larry Smith was in. After establishing his distinct knack for telling rather straight forward violent crime/dramas this was his first attempt at mystery storytelling.

From a filmmaking standpoint Refn is clearly experimenting in new territory, and the guy seems lost. His dialogue, which was such a big part of his first two films (I even labeled his knack for capturing “cool” through speech as Tarantino-esque) is nearly non-existent, exposing his as of yet inability to compensate for minimal spoken scripts. This lack of dialogue is in large part to Refn’s original idea of wanting to make this film a silent picture, but his writing collaboration with novelist Hubert Selby Jr. (author of books-to-films, Last Exit to Brooklyn and Requiem for a Dream) I’m sure played a part in this as well.

Nobody said I have to love – or in this case, even like – every Nicolas Winding Refn film. Good thing, because this is not a movie I can get behind.

Up Next: With Blood on My Hands: Pusher II


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Categories: Director Spotlight, Reviews

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