The Usual Suspects – Nine Short Stories from Unusual Places


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The white shopping bag crashed into the muddy puddle.

My plastic skin yielded and everything bled out of me.

Fruits rolled and sank. Shampoo oozed out; graffiti on the mirror.

Men with milky shadows and women in cheese wigs passed by me blindly.

A young boy slipped away from his mother, splashed into the puddle, feet like drumsticks.

Fireworks! Tomatoes exploded! Bread shredded and glass shattered! Spectacular euthanasia.

—  The Plastic Bag


We’ve been together for a long time.

They all warned us it would end one day.

No! We were defiant dandelions determined to face it all.

It was an early Friday morning when metallic winds stormed our home, slicing me off his bed.

Dandelion seeds blown away.

— Nail & Cuticle


You all fear her, as you should, but no one loves her. No one loves her like I do.

You hide under trees and behind curtains to escape her.

Fools! Such bliss to bathe in her touch, her warmth, her love.

She is fierce as fire feeding on the fuel of fission.

I refuse to sit silently; I will not save you.

— Sunglasses in Love


They are infinity embodied. I tire with every step. They don’t.

They make their ancestors proud. They keep going up.

To what end? I don’t know but I must find out.

My heart races as I approach the highest level. This is it.

I’m going to make my ancestors proud; I’m going to win this game.

A door with a golden handle awaits me.

I clasp the handle and pull it down. It disappears!

A door with no handle stares at me.

I hear their triumphant laughter echoing behind my back.


— Climbing the Stairs


Why me?

My sister grew up to work with fire.

My brother is famous in a museum in London.

Even my baby cousin is an artist, his work in galleries all over town.

But me? I end up kneaded and spread.

My tongue licks every floor, ceiling, and wall.

I cause pain to everyone around me.

I wish I was different. I wish I was…


— Wax On


My father always says, “We are immortal.”

We never have to worry about survival or the future.

We know we’re here forever.

Unlike you, poor mortals!

You cower beneath us, mouths watering, eyes racing, then you die.

Meanwhile we watch it all from above.

It’s our time. It’s our era.

We are Big Brother.

— Mighty Bill Board


I’m a foot fetishist and proud!

I love their curves and I say it out loud.

I wait politely till I finally get the chance.

Oh what a dance.

To hold a foot, take it inside..

That wild ride!

— The Shoe Wants What It Wants


They resent me.

Their eyes need new eyes to see the beauty in the old.

They’re freaks, obsessed with sterile sanity, botched Botox, asinine app updates.

Dust now extinct.

They’re coming after me.

But I’m beautiful and natural just the way I am.

I’m old, not gold, but just as bold.

— Rust in Peace


If I was made of ice cream instead of light, I’d be a fantastic combination of strawberry, banana, and kiwi.

I’d be scooped into the biggest cone.

People would pose with me, on Instagram, Snapchat, you name it!

I would be loved and appreciated.

But I am made of light not ice cream.

I am cursed and violated although I mean no harm.

If only they tasted my flavors as ice cream.

Alas, I scream.

— Stuck in Traffic


Captain Fantastic – A Beautiful Reminder of an Ugly Reality


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Captain Fantastic (2016)

Director: Matt Ross


Like Ben and his children attending a funeral all dressed in bright red and green, Matt Ross’ Captain Fantastic is a soulful burst of color in the dark sad affair that is current moviemaking. Telling the story of the Cash family, the film follows the everyday life of Ben (masterfully played by Viggo Mortensen) as he trains and educates his six children in the middle of a forest. The setting may first seem like a summer camp but it turns out to be the permanent residence of the family where they exercise, hunt, play music, and learn everything from self-defense and bone carving to quantum physics and law. Their utopian microcosm is suddenly disturbed when they receive the news of their hospitalized mother’s death. What follows is the journey of a family vying to prove itself to the world.

The film is an outstanding social commentary on today’s world as well as a deliberation about the generation gap. At the beginning one may think Ben is hypocrite who decides to isolate his family from a corrupt world that indoctrinates all minds only to do that very same thing to them – protect them against the evil of the world by injecting them with his own set of beliefs. However as the film progresses we can see the nuances of Ben’s character, especially when contrasted against other characters. Other parental characters in the film are illustrated as either dictators who completely disregard their children’s wishes or blindly supportive shadows for their children and both juxtapose with Ben’s role in enlightening his family through free and unrestricted access to truth. Truth is a key concept that is tackled in an entirely original way: a multi-dimensional approach spanning different generations and mentalities. The film discusses the relationship between finding the truth and age. Ben refuses to lie to his children about anything and always divulges the truth about pertinent issues such as capitalism, sex, fascism, and religion which are generally avoided when talking to eight-year-olds. Unlike Harper (Kathryn Hahn) who argues that lying to children is for the sake of “protecting [them] from concepts that they are too young to understand,” Ben believes in no age when it comes to knowledge. However, what Ben eventually realizes is that knowing the truth about the world is not the same thing as living in it. He chooses to move his children into their grandparents’ residence and surrenders to the real world, accepting that this time he is not right and relinquishing his control. But he is not giving up; he’s giving in. Soon after returning back to the forest all by himself, Ben is surprised to find his children had followed him. The seeds he had sowed in their souls were blooming, the ideas growing into actions; he had raised them well and they were ready to face the world.


The Cash siblings

The film’s top moments involve death but they do not engulf the audience in melancholy but rather in the magnificent bond between humans, alive and dead. The first moment takes place early on in the film when Ben finds out his wife had died. Instead of inserting a typical hysterical reaction, Matt Ross chooses to transport us to a waterfall. Ben showers in the waterfall, bathing in nature’s ever flowing tears. The second moment is on the family’s bus where angelic music and light floods the scene as the children lay around their mother’s corpse on its way to be cremated. Death is portrayed as an ethereal experience not of loss but of love; a celebration of humanity. During the cremation ceremony, the children play music, sing, and dance while their mother’s body fades into ashes and her love flowers into them.

The use of close ups and music attenuates the emotional connection between the characters and the audience. We’re drawn into their special world where they celebrate Noam Chomsky day instead of Christmas and howl in excitement through their eyes and rhythms. Creating a successful dramedy, Ross fuses elements from different genres and the product is a genuine, thought-provoking, heartwarming experience of what it is to be alive.

Captain Fantastic won the Un Certain Regard Directing award at Cannes Film Festival 2016.

Voyage of Time – The Poem That Says It All


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Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey (2016)

Director: Terrence Malick


Over the years, the name Terrence Malick has been associated with masterful yet divisive filmmaking. Not since his Tree of Life (2011) has Malick won the hearts of critics as his most recent films, including To the Wonder (2012) and Knight of Cups (2015), have been received with a mix of disapproval, if not total indifference, from critics and simultaneous fervent defense by those who still admire and appreciate his vision. However, his latest is an entirely different affair. Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey (2016) is not just another Malick production simply because it’s not a production at all; it’s a poem. Malick is finally free to speak and paint without the restraints of a screenplay, a narrative, the burden to satisfy the audience’s need for characters and plot. This film has been in production for over a decade due to Malick’s meticulous efforts to research, consult, and create exact and elegant shots of our universe. For the first time, Malick’s poetry is unleashed freely in beautifully constructed shots, ones we’ve always expected and enjoyed from him.


After watching the trailer, Voyage of Time might seem like Malick’s rendition of Richard Linklater’s Boyhood (2014) but about the universe instead of a young boy. After watching the film, that notion is shattered. Malick does not simply transcribe the birth of the universe and its life as it ages, instead he merges scenes of ineffable natural beauty with handheld footage of people from different cultures celebrating, protesting, begging, eating. The combination of wildlife nature and human nature composes an ode to the identity of our world. Nevertheless, this ode is not continually melodious and merry for at times it transforms into a somber song slowly surfacing from beneath the splendid scenery. This film will make you feel sad.


Embedded with Cate Blanchett’s voiceover as she calls out for “Mother,” lost and desperate, the film no longer provides us with gorgeous landscapes for the sake of art. It shows us the vast discrepancy between the flawlessness of nature and the cracks within the human ecosystem; two cultures eons away from each other yet coexisting on the same planet. The handheld footage brings humans into the picture through Hindu festivals, acts of civil disobedience, moments of humiliation; this is who we are. We are not majestic like the whales or powerful like lightning; we are broken smiles and repressed tears.


Yet Malick doesn’t want to dishearten us, he believes in us just as much as he does in the stars and the trees. He joins the two cultures by exposing their common key strength: they are unstoppable. When hungry, leopards attack their prey as do men who hunt for their tribes. When angry, volcanoes erupt relentlessly as do the revolutionaries in Tahrir Square. When passionate, waterfalls rush onwards as do the worshippers to their sanctuaries. Nature is unstoppable and so is the human race. Despite the differences between the purity with which humans interact and that of nature’s inexorable flowing life, we are made of the same stardust that makes us glorious and great. Such greatness is perfectly matched with a sensational classical score that can easily replace the voiceover without affecting the film.

Voyage of Time illustrates the might of the canyons and of the human will. The faces of scorpions and men may not look alike but their hearts beat together. This film will make you feel sad but it will also remind you that maybe you shouldn’t be.

Pop Art of Pathology


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I was bed ridden all day and instead of sleeping, I decided to make something, anything! Despite my passionate love for sleep, I knew I had to abandon the pattern of escaping into dreamworld and do something different. I’m a med student and I’ve been enamored by the human body for years. I enjoy studying it and learning all about its mechanisms. One field which I find especially interesting is pathology: the study of disease. My interest in pathology drove me to approach the subject in a different manner than typically undertaken in academic environments. Since I’m a huge fan of art in all its glorious forms, I fused artistic expression with pathological manifestation.

The following are edited images of different human body organs afflicted by various diseases. I thought it would be meaningful to try and change the way we perceive illness by adding a blast of color to things like cancer and infections.


Kid knees


Where babies come from


The Master(mind)


Deep breath


Liver dier


This is where your poop lives




Big heart


Pancreatic labyrinth


Reach me rectally


Café Society – Woody Allen Paints


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Café Society (2016)

Director: Woody Allen


Woody Allen’s latest is a mesmerizing painting of 30s Hollywood life. Telling the story of a young Bobby Dorfman (satisfactorily played by Jesse Eisenberg) as he starts his blooming career in Hollywood, Café Society portrays youth in stunning smiles and sunshine. From a typical Jewish family, not unlike the many households depicted in previous Woody Allen films, Dorfman leaves New York to seek a job in his big shot uncle Phil Stern’s (Steve Carell) Hollywood agency. Although he finds little luck in the movie business, Dorfman stumbles upon a greater treasure on his journey: the equally bright and beautiful Vonnie (a hypnotic Kirsten Stewart). Predictably he falls in love with her but soon finds he’s not the only man in her life. In the second act of the film, the love triangle is front and center until Vonnie makes a choice and the film diverges accordingly. The third and final act falters as the story threads loosen into expected turns.


Woody Allen does not surprise. His film is a mix of typical Jewishness, existentialism, and Manhattan love. His quips permeate the screenplay and the neurotic still stands as his favorite protagonist. What distinguishes Café Society are its color and talented cast. Almost as brilliant as Allen’s iconic Manhattan (1979), the film boasts of its gorgeous landscapes accentuated by warm color schemes and dazzling lighting. The exquisite frames brimming with charm and love wouldn’t have been as impressive without the terrific lead performances. Jesse Eisenberg perfectly fits the ambitious young Jew vying to prove himself to the world but it is Kirsten Stewart that steals the spotlight with her simple yet solid performance as a woman torn in love. Other noteworthy performances include Parker Posey and Blake Lively.


Nevertheless, Allen’s attempt to make something new and original – unseen since his Oscar-winning Blue Jasmine (2013) – is not exactly successful. Sure it’s not a blunder but it does not manage to impress as a convincing comeback to the auteur’s excellent filmmaking we wish for. Enjoyable and visually pleasing yet not entirely outstanding.

This is the Best Sci-Fi of the Decade (So Far)


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Almost every decade since the sixties has had its hallmark sci-fi film that engenders a paradigm shift in what we believe is impossible. In 1968, Stanley Kubrick created a visionary tale about the history and future of mankind and to this very day 2001: A Space Odyssey stands as an iconic pinnacle of filmmaking. Nine years later, another masterpiece of science fiction was born when George Lucas released the first (or fourth) episode of his Star Wars series. Soon afterwards, the technological advance of filmmaking rapidly enabled and enhanced the production of scary brilliant stories spawned by the likes of Ridley Scott (Alien, 1979; Blade Runner, 1982) and Steven Spielberg, who made one of the highest grossing sci-fi films in history: Jurassic Park (1993). Before the turn of the 21st century the Wachowskis conceived The Matrix (1999), a revolutionary vision that amazed the world by its visuals and ideas. By then, CGI (computer-generated imagery), green screens, and many more techniques had become standard in the making of any visually stunning sci-fi movie and 2009 witnessed some of the most impressive feats such as James Cameron’s Avatar, Neill Blomkamp’s District 9, and Duncan Jones’ Moon.

Even though there are still four more years ahead of us, it’s as good a time as any to examine the turning points in sci-fi filmmaking of the 2010s. This decade started on a high note with Christopher Nolan’s mind boggling puzzle Inception (2010) and in the years that followed few films, if any, matched its artistry. Among the noteworthy achievements are low budget indies like Another Earth (2011) and Coherence (2013), as well as major studio productions like Gravity (2013) and Edge of Tomorrow (2014). In late 2014, Nolan made a strong comeback with another Oscar-winning film; Interstellar pushed the boundaries of filmmaking through its gorgeous and scientifically accurate space visuals, not to mention its perplexing plot of time-twisting and space-bending adventures. Last year signified a surge of masterful sci-fi filmmaking that included the return of excellent filmmakers and long-awaited franchises: Ridley Scott’s The Martian, J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road and Alex Garland’s splendid directorial debut Ex Machina.

All the aforementioned 2010 productions, whether due to their exquisite visual and sound effects or wonderful stories, surprised and impressed us on different levels but personally none of them left that distinctly unforgettable mark in my mind. I greatly appreciate and admire all of them for many reasons but they don’t quite do it like Jonathan Glazer’s latest. In 2013, Glazer gifted us with a unique film that did more than its fellow sci-fi tales. Under the Skin (2013), originally a Michel Faber novel, is not a CGI extravaganza that boasts of its visual tricks – the now-accepted ABC of any sci-fi movie – and in that sense it surpasses the expectations of the common moviegoer. Many have told of aliens yet Glazer’s portrayal of alien life is exceptional. The film’s focus is an alien predator albeit of a very unusual nature and with more unusual aims, roaming the streets of Scotland to lure men into darkness. Casting Scarlett Johansson for the role is quite unexpected as her face is one of the most distinguishable in the industry; this casting choice seems to be only the beginning of a long process carefully carried out by Glazer whose vision is not to merely tell another alien story, on the contrary, it is to expose a human one. Under the Skin poses one of the most important philosophical questions of all time: what is it to be human? Unlike philosophers, Glazer attempts to answer this question by observing aliens not humans, or more accurately by observing aliens craving humanity.


In its opening sequence, the film demonstrates the human entity as its most basic function: a machine. The sequence shows the alien’s birth, or rather the transmogrification of the alien into its human (dis)guise. The audience can see the formation of a pupil as several spherical structures come together to form a human eye. In voice over, the alien is slowly practicing the English language by vocalizing letters and sounds. The alien undergoes two key changes to “become” human, if only externally, the first is to gain a human form, specifically eyes, and the second is to learn language. The conception of the alien-human tells us that, at the simplest level, being human is essentially being a processing machine; with eyes to receive data from the external world and language to communicate data to the external world. Afterwards, the alien begins its journey in Scotland where the first thing she does is shop for clothes and make-up. This step addresses a social aspect of being human: to be accepted as an individual in society, one must look like others. This fact is evident now more than ever as xenophobia is a world-wide plague ravaging even the most liberal of societies (read: burkini ban). The shopping mall scene may seem simple and straightforward in the context of the plot. The alien after all needs to clothe itself regardless of social acceptance. However, the focused shots on women in make-up do tackle an important human trait; humans always crave acceptance and to achieve that they usually resort to physical conformity.

In one of the film’s most striking scenes, the alien is standing by the sea and starts a conversation with a foreign swimmer when they notice a child drowning and his mother rushing after him trying to reach for him as the father lags behind her, struggling against the waves. The moment the swimmer sees them, he leaves the alien and dashes to save the father. Meanwhile, the alien apathetically watches the tragic scene from afar. She does not react in any way and only approaches the swimmer to kidnap him for her own agenda, abandoning the dead family. The juxtaposition of the swimmer’s reaction and the alien’s lack of one establishes another characteristic human quality: emotive response, a sense of duty and responsibility for fellow man, even conscience. A key feature of humans is their humanity and this is exemplified through the sharp emotional contrast between human and alien in this scene.

Throughout the first hour of the film, countless shots of people on the street are used to show the audience the environment which the alien now inhabits. She drives a white van and wanders the streets looking for her next prey. Scottish strangers of different genders and ages are filmed crossing the street, shopping, dancing, drinking, conversing with friends, mostly doing mundane daily acts that all people do. These shots are the most direct illustration of human activity and they aid in familiarizing the alien with her new home and in contrasting her behavior with theirs.


During the second half, the film takes a turn as it explores a new dimension of the alien’s character. She’s no longer satisfied by carrying out her deadly missions and gradually expresses a core human attribute: curiosity. At first, she was nothing more than a huntress on a mission but throughout the rest of the film she becomes curious about her form, her environment, and all the possibilities that come with becoming human. Her becoming is charted chronologically in five stages that depict her curiosity unleashed in forms of examination of body, experimentation, emotional activation, openness to art, and sexual awakening.

The first stage is rooted in self-perception. Although the mirror is an object familiar to the alien – she uses it at the beginning of the film to put on make-up – it is used differently during this stage. The alien examines her face in a mirror, staring at it in bewilderment. Later, she poses naked in front of a standing mirror and studies her figure as her hands wander over its unblemished terrain. These two shots exemplify an important transition in the alien’s development. She now possesses a personal gaze with which she observes her physical self; the idea of observing one’s body is a simple but significant feature of her becoming and it drinks from the everlasting well of curiosity. She becomes curious, she looks. The next stage of the alien’s becoming is experimentation. Perhaps more clearly correlated to curiosity, this stage is where the alien crosses the lines drawn for her to try new things. She goes to a restaurant and orders a slice of cake. Glazer presents her first interaction with food in close-up to emphasize the experience; the alien’s mouth opens to receive a small piece of cake seated on a fork. She barely chews then quickly spits it out in disgust. The alien follows her curiosity and ventures beyond the limits of her missions to get a taste of the human life, even if turns out to be unappealing to her virgin taste buds. These initial two stages target the primitive physical aspects of the human life: the body, its form, and its needs. As the alien’s curiosity grows, her adventures progress into more complicated aspects of the human experience.

The third and fourth stages of the alien’s becoming illustrate her maturation as she grapples with higher level processes of human behavior. The third stage is emotional activation; the alien’s curiosity surpasses materialistic goals and targets social connection to others. On one of her missions, the alien picks up a man with a severely deformed face, and like all previously captured prey, she takes him home to seduce him into oblivion and death. However, this time her approach to the man is different in two respects. Firstly, when she picks him up she does not treat him like she did other men. She employs her standard flirtatious tricks but she also touches him and invites him to touch her. They hold hands and she guides his palm over her cheek and neck. Such interaction marks a first for the alien in the realm of sensual experience for although her main mission involves the utilization of sex to hunt men the process never escalates to actual intercourse or even touch. Secondly, this encounter with man is different because the alien lets him go at the end of the night and does not capture him as she did with previous prey. These two decisions represent the growth of the alien’s emotive response, which was otherwise nonexistent. Her curiosity pushed her to reach out to an alien lifeform (from her point of view) and feel sympathy and responsibility towards him to eventually prioritize her conscious emotional state over her mission. After abandoning her mission, the alien feels despondent and walks the streets aimlessly until a stranger offers his help. Although at first reluctant, she finally accepts and goes with him home where he provides her with the night’s accommodation and later they spend more time together. This second instance of emotional connection is evidence of the alien’s morphing into a social animal. Earlier in the film, strangers were lured by the alien back to her place but now the tables are turned and she goes along with a stranger. Her decision to go home with the stranger exemplifies a reversal of roles which denotes her transformation into a more human entity. The fourth stage is potentially the strongest symbol of the alien’s evolution and assimilation into the human collective. A song plays and as the alien listens to it, she taps her fingers along its beat. A seemingly simple act but it nevertheless indicates the alien’s perception of music and symbolizes her openness to culture, specifically art.


The fifth stage is a combination of both physical and emotional curiosity: sexual awakening. After the alien spends a day out with the stranger, they go back to his flat and start making out in bed. He undresses her slowly and intends to penetrate her when she pushes him away in a jolt. She approaches a standing mirror and spreads her legs, looking more closely at what’s between them. Her sudden sexual rejection is not based on a reassessment of their relationship; it’s due to her new found knowledge of her own female anatomy. Unlike a young teenager who slowly comes to understand what genitals are and how they function over time, the alien receives such information one moment before sexual intercourse and it shocks her completely. The shock generates curiosity about her body and provides a glimpse into her perception of herself as a sexual being; a typical feature of human growth.

These five stages delineate the alien’s becoming, her integration into the human experience. However, in a single final scene Glazer perfects the definitive moment where the alien can truly be branded human. After wandering alone in the woods, the alien seeks refuge in a rest house where she accidentally falls asleep only to be woken up by a man’s hands crawling underneath her trousers. She jumps up and runs away but is eventually chased and held down in the middle of the woods. The man forces himself on her and gradually strips her until, to his shock, her skin starts peeling off to reveal a black interior. He retreats. She disintegrates as her skin slides off her coal-like form. As she crawls away, the man returns and pours gasoline over her body and sets fire to it. This last minute climax provides the perfect conclusion to the alien’s becoming: injustice. Being subjected to injustice is an inextricable part of the human experience. Whether in the context of war ravaged homelands, political corruption, economic gaps, chronic disease, emotional afflictions, or spiritual suffering, all humans endure one form of injustice or another during their lifetime and this satisfies a criterion of being human.

So what is it to be human? Is it to satisfy bodily needs? Is it to emotionally connect to others? Is it to suffer injustice? Or is it to be curious? To be curious to a deadly extent that leads to one’s own scorching demise and consumption? Through his film Under the Skin (2013), Jonathan Glazer argues for the latter through the changes his alien heroine experiences when she gradually mutates to a human persona as a result of her fizzing curiosity. His exploration of this philosophical problem is a captivating 108-minute film that outshines the more traditional sci-fi productions we’ve encountered this decade so far. I do not underestimate the quality of recent sci-fi films for they too tackle crucial issues such as the stamina of the human spirit. Yet Glazer’s vision is distinctly singular in its approach, whether technical or thematic, for expressing our base and complex nature, our desires and dreams, and our worst fears about our humanity. Glazer amazes; he takes the road less traveled and chooses to tell us about ourselves through a sci-fi marvel that uncovers the mysteries lying under our skin.

Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy – Favorite Moments


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Before Sunrise (1995)

Think of it like this: jump ahead, ten, twenty years, okay, and you’re married. Only your marriage doesn’t have that same energy that it used to have, y’know. You start to blame your husband. You start to think about all those guys you’ve met in your life and what might have happened if you’d picked up with one of them, right? Well, I’m one of those guys. That’s me y’know, so think of this as time travel, from then, to now, to find out what you’re missing out on. See, what this really could be is a gigantic favor to both you and your future husband to find out that you’re not missing out on anything. I’m just as big a loser as he is, totally unmotivated, totally boring, and, uh, you made the right choice, and you’re really happy.


I kind of see this all love as this, escape for two people who don’t know how to be alone.



I always liked the idea of all those unknown people lost in the world.

The moment Jesse mouthed “yes” at 1:06


Before Sunset (2004)


But we’re not real anyway, right? We’re just, uh, characters in that old lady’s dream. She’s on her deathbed, fantasizing about her youth. So of course we had to meet again.




Before Midnight (2013)


I fucked up my whole life because of the way you sing.


When they watch the sun as it sets

But if you want true love, then this is it. This is real life. It’s not perfect, but it’s real.

Drive – A Smooth Ride of Stunning Suspense


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Drive (2011)

Director: Nicolas Winding Refn


Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive is a film about watching, observing, and absorbing. Its cinematography and production design lure us into looking more than listening. And when we look, we’re captivated by the choreography of the camera and the color within each frame.

The film includes several tracking shots, some of which are excellently executed as the characters walk towards the camera then stop then continue. These tracking shots are not elaborate and do not announce themselves like the more noticeable shots made by Lubezki, instead they ask us to move our eyes in the frame and look at more than just the tracked subject. Within the frame there are more than bodies, we can see facial expressions and subtle hand and eye movements, all of which illustrate relationships between characters. The camera does not track characters; it tracks the growth of tension between characters.

However, it is color that is the film’s highlighting characteristic. The film’s dominated by shades of blue, only opposed by orange and yellow hues in the presence of Irene (Carey Mulligan). The balance between blue and orange is beautifully painted in many of the shot-reverse-shot scenes involving the driver (perfected by Ryan Gosling’s expressive eyes) and Irene. Our eyes shift between the driver’s cold desolate blue aura and the warm embracing orange halo enveloping Irene, feeling the driver’s longing for her warm affection.


Although the film invites us to look, its protagonist rarely looks at himself. The low angle camera shots of the driver, the tracking shots following him, the close-ups on his face and eyes in the rear view mirror all objectify him as the main center of our attention and gaze. Yet the driver’s own eyes do not wander where ours do. The multiple dissolve shots of his face and the city, or his face and Irene’s, convey a message of one lost in others, be they people or environments; one looking for a host, a home. We do not get a lot of background information about the driver’s past. We’re only allowed a limited amount of information about what he does: he drives. The first shot alone is a concise introduction to his identity: his yellow scorpion jacket, his maps and bags, and his voice during a phone call. That’s how he is presented to us: a job, a tool, a means to an end. Little to no extra details about his character are given later. His emotions are revealed through his reactions to Irene and her child, to Standard (Oscar Isaac), to Shannon (Bryan Cranston), but none of these are unraveled elaborately to show us who the driver really is.

The intensity of car chases and murders are enhanced by the atypical absence of music. The suspense is not roped around thrilling music but tightly wound by the sound of silence. Our anticipation is upped by camerawork and the accompanying revving engines and screeching tires.


It’s only in the second half of the film that we get a glimpse into a darker corner of the driver’s persona. Refn is known for his blatant violence, at times romanticized as in Only God Forgives, and at others served cold as in Drive. The most important scene which exposes the driver’s nature through the use of violence is the elevator scene. His eyes see the stranger’s gun, his hands move Irene away, his lips kiss hers. The shot is beautifully accentuated through lighting as the elevator lights dim and only the driver and Irene are highlighted amidst their passionate kiss; a stolen moment, an escape from reality, salvation. The lights come back, the driver turns around and bashes the stranger’s head with his foot mercilessly, to death. Irene steps out of the elevator terrified and the doors close on the driver’s bloodied face; a stranger. The juxtaposition of the kiss and the murder in the same setting demonstrates the paradoxical personality, or rather the possibility of a natural amalgam of purity and impurity in one body; this is human nature. The dual character is hinted at when we find out that by day the driver works as a stunt driver in movies, where he dons on a mask to protect his face (or his identity?), the same mask he wears during one of his later murders. Now we get a closer look into the driver’s troubled soul. He tells his clients he doesn’t carry a gun and that implants a seed of respect in our minds; we know he sheds no blood, he’s humane. After the several murders he commits throughout the second half of the film – using his hands, a bat, a hammer, and other basic tools – Refn grabs that seed and burns it in front of us, in sweat and blood.