FILM preview Great Dane
Going to film school or directing a $1 million feature? For NICOLAS WINDING REFN, the decision to make Pusher was easy. Words: Alan Morrison
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Past Copenhagen’s famous mermaid statue, behind the beautiful Tivoli Gardens, there lurks another side of the city that the tourists don’t see. Like any European capital, Copenhagen has its drug problems.
'If you don’t have the East European mafia spreading into Scotland yet, it’s going to come,’ warns 26-year-old first-time filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn. 'Because of the Yugoslawan War
‘The fundamental difference between our society and that gangster world is that they kill, and
and the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism, there's been a huge spread into Scandinavia of that criminal element. i feel I’ve made a fairly accurate picture of the drug world in Copenhagen, or so I’ve been told by the so-called experts ’
Those ’experts' probably constitute half the cast of Pusher, the film -
WITH A CONTINENTAL TOUCH
mixing real-life gangsters with professional actors - that Refn made instead of taking a place at the Danish Film School. Smart move, as his debut kept Mission: Impossible off the Number One box office spot when released in its home country.
Pusher chronicles a week in the life of a drug dealer whose comfortable existence is shattered when a heroin deal goes wrong and he finds himself owrng a lot of money to some unforgiving Serbs. Refn reckons his film has the moral (but not judgemental) tone of a 30s gangster movie, but its roots go back to classical tragedy, where a man who’s king in his world is brought down by a combination of cruel fate and his own inner flaws. Surprismgly, given the film's seedy setting and cold documentary-like style, the audience is sympathetically drawn to the plight of Frank, a soft heart in a world of bad
guys and worse guys. 'People in that
world are not very much different from me and you, actually,' says Refn. ’They may look different, but we all have the same emotional needs, and that's what makes us human. The fundamental difference between our society and that gangster world is that they kill, and it’s acceptable. But you can Sit down and talk With some Of the WOrst peoole in the world and begin to think they’re fairly nice We as a
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My drug buddy: Mads Mikkelsen and Kim Bodnia in Pusher
society are very quick to judge other people, and who says we have the right to judge anybody?’
The success of the film has quickly catapulted Refn into the position of being one of Danish cinema's key players, but he isn’t going to sell out to Hollywood. ‘It’s very important we stay in Europe, like the way Danny Boyle does,’ he states. ’We have to build up a European film community and put a brake on this negative attitude towards subtitled films.
’There's a little bit of pressure on me now, but I feel more pressure from myself, to make every film as good as I can. As an artist you have an obligation to inspire through what you’re doing. Right now I can probably do what I want, but l'm sure that's going to change, so I might as well enjoy it for those fifteen minutes of fame.’
Pusher opens at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Fri 17 Oct. See review.
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