‘My father and I disagree on the purpose of cinema’: Anders and Nicolas Winding Refn on film-making

‘My father and I disagree on the purpose of cinema’: Anders and Nicolas Winding Refn on film-making

February 12, 2021

The two Danish directors have known the joy of success and the pain of failure in their respective careers. Just don’t expect them to see eye to eye on anything else

Nicolas Winding Refn and his father, Anders, are the chalk and cheese of Danish cinema; bound by blood, separated by the movies. Here they are, sat side-by-side in their little Zoom windows, each dialling in from their homes in Copenhagen. “But we are not close at all,” Nicolas explains by way of introduction. “He’s in the suburbs and I’m in the city.” Physically, spiritually, the two are poles apart.

I have known Refn Jr’s work for years. He is the upstart talent behind Drive, The Neon Demon and the Pusher trilogy. He is beguiling, exasperating, almost endlessly watchable. But I am less familiar with 76-year-old Anders, who has steered a quieter course as a sometime director and a prolific film editor; the sort of safe pair of hands that cleans up the mess made by others. At one stage he explains that he shot his debut feature, Copper, way back in 1976. “My first film was about a policeman. Nicolas’s first film was about a criminal.” He chuckles at the comparison. “So we are like two sides of the same coin.”

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