You wanna talk extreme? Charles Bronson, ne Michael Peterson, has spent thirty-four of his fifty-six years of life in incarceration of one form or another -- most of that time has been in solitary confinement. The system has been violent to him, but he's been violent back, and an anti-authoritarian cult has risen around his two-fisted brand of rebellion.
He's an artist and poet, and has published an instructional book on how to keep fit under restricted resources (like, say, if you're kept in solitary for most of your life). He's not the guy you'd want to have a beer with. He's most likely the guy you'd fear is going to break the beer bottle over your head. (Although, to be fair, he's been certified as clinically sane and hasn't been violent for the last seven years.)
In telling Bronson/Peterson's story in the new movie, Bronson, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn has decided to meet extreme with extremes. The narrative style is surreally hyperbolic; the violence is blunt and unsparing; a framing device has Bronson -- played by Tom Hardy -- telling his tale from a proscenium stage. There are saturated color schemes, animated sequences, and even, for obscure reasons, a reference to the artist Magritte. Some of this seems to push too hard (Whiteface? Really?), but Refn clearly has his reasons and, while I may not have bought it all, I didn't regret being taken on the trip. If you're going to go out there, I think, then, frack, you'd better go all the way out there. Congrats, Nick, mission accomplished.
Refn and I got to talk about the motivation behind the narrative madness and discussed how one confronts an audience with a character who defies empathy. (I also got to meet his three month old daughter, who's another kind of extreme: extremely adorable.) Click on the player below to hear the interview.
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