Watching the under-rated Fear X recently – Drive director Nicolas Winding Refns 2003 feature from which the above screengrab is taken- and several images provoked an emotionally visceral reaction. This underseen film is a story of an obsession, that of a mall security guard played by John Turturro. Traumatized by his wifes inexplicable murder he daily pieces together video footage, newspaper clippings and photographs in trying to uncover the identity of her killer and make some sense out of senselessness.
There are several moments when we appear to be inside the Turturro’s character psyche, a world shimmering with sickly shades of red, an otherworldly energy which seems to already present in the hotel in which Turturro is staying, shades of Twin Peaks and The Shining perhaps. Certainly Fear X has a David Lynch feel to it. You know something is not quite right but you cant quite put your finger on it or even decipher it.
The film like much of Refn’s work is highly disciplined in terms of its form, the rigorous visual style reminiscent of Kubrick and which is also present in Drive and Bronson. The more immediate, handheld camera work present in his Pusher films feels loose but is more than likely just as rigorous planned out. The worlds created in his films are incredibly immersive. The fluidity and precision of the camerawork and of the performances within this frame are the stuff of a bold cinematic iconoclast or at least suggest the makings of a cinematic iconoclast.
No doubt Refn is not the first director to obsess over the colour red or to use it a visual motif or metaphor- Scottish director Lynne Ramsay recently deployed this idea in the excellent We Need To Talk About Kevin– but rarely is a single colour used so vividly and consistently by a film-maker. Like Turturro’s in Fear X and indeed like all of the male protagonists in Refn’s films, he is obsessed by this colour. Red is said to symbolize anger and aggression. Anger and aggression grow out of fear. Fear of oneself, others, of loss. The loss of control and to an extent from Kim Bodnia‘s Frank to Ryan Goslings Driver these men try to control or shape their destiny but are fighting against it. They drive forward – no pun intended- by the compulsion of violence, danger, risk, psychosis, animal instinct,self-loathing.
Rage directed at oneself. Creating your own personal valhalla. Of course, I’m playing an intellectual guessing game. But it’s fun no?