Tuesday, October 11, 2011

On Posture

Drive (2011) / Nicolas Winding Refn

Like a lot of Gosling performances, the one in Drive is essentially a catalogue of various human postures. Much like Warren Oates, a similarly brave actor, who acted with the length of his beard (dense growth: disgruntled, maniac, psychotic; stubble: violent but tragic, clean-shaven: in love, optimistic but a tad cynical), Gosling acts with the angle at which he reclines his back. Therefore Half-Nelson is a perpetual slouch while Lars and the Real Girl is an overtly-perpendicular spine. Ofcourse, Drive is wholly about a character placed against/as an inextricable part of a milieu/setting (no film in recent times, not even quirky indies, have such elaborate wallpapering: the home has redder-warmer tones, the motel has greener, unwelcoming tones) – therefore, Gosling’s driver-character is often placed against a stark background – his silhouette is pasted upon wallpapered-backgrounds, his profile is often used against a flurry of Los Angeles-at-night lights while he drives the car. The much-discussed credit sequence plays like a clothing ad – Gosling does a lot of things but accomplishes very little – he sits in his car with a leg stretched out, walks with a jacket hung over one shoulder, walks even more – but he never really is getting anywhere in the fade-in, fade-out montage. It is because the credit sequence, emblematically of the whole film, is a simple-minded ode to posture (much like any advertisement for cosmetics or clothes). 

As a result, the film, much like any Melville, reveals its lead protagonist’s mental state through an external quality – when Gosling’s character is falling in love with a residential neighbour and reasonably satisfied with the quality of his life, he stands/walks/sits with an upright, perfectly vertical back with not a hint of a slouch – but when he goes about extracting revenge in the final half-an-hour of the film, his body contorts into weird awkward shapes. When the final mutual kniving-session does take place, director Refn decides to film the dueling parties in shadows, therefore, in strictly pictorial terms, Gosling’s body turns into a shape – one which struggles uncomfortably atop the boot of the car. When order is restored in the final shot (or is it?), Gosling’s profile, straight-as-an-arrow and immovable, once again fills the frame from its head to toe, while Los Angeles lights pass by in the background.

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