This weeks films, both Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive and Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly, shift our perspective to contemporary violence in Hollywood films. The scope and presentation of violence in terms of cinematography and the interconnection with urban spaces is particularly interesting, especially in relation to Drive.
In Refn’s Drive the protagonist Ryan Gosling is a modern-day archetype of the fairytale ‘Knight.’ He is handsome, smooth and polished on the exterior, and the smoothness of his characteristics are aptly mirrored with the smoothness of the slick urban city of Los Angeles. He is the epitome of restraint, masculinity, virility, action and power, yet there is noted air of serenity about his character in the way he controls his machine, his mannerisms and similarly his calmness when handling situations of intense violence and high adrenaline. From this the audience gets a sense that this smoothness is not exclusive to his physical attributes alone, but also to the texture of his mind. The music score, sequencing of action shots and the steadiness of each movement and moment of perceptive thinking heightens our understanding of the intricate violent standards of this film.
In contrast, the protagonists of Killing them Softly is anything but the calm, cool and collected version from Drive. Brad Pitt’s hyperbolized character of the mafioso ball-buster with his leather jacket and overbearing sideburns, waltzing into bars, commanding acts of violence openly makes the film seem like the movie version of the Sopranos. There is a lack of finite detail that we see in our previous film, and this can be immediately registered by comparing the physical attributes between Gosling and Pitt, the former sharp and smooth and well groomed, and the latter disheveled with facial hair. Similarly the violence portrayed is one that is much more grainy and arguably realistic, with its slip-ups and fast/hard-talking dialogue. After comparing both films side by side one can argue that Ryan Gosling’s character in Drive is almost obsessive compulsive and socially constrained in his actions.
The editing techniques in Drive have much to do with this portrayal of smoothness both in the realm of violence as well as in the character that commits it. The speeding up and slowing down of certain action shots, the closeness in every movement and the saturated brashness of colors makes this film enhanced visually to the point of perception simulation.