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Full of Drive

At this year’s Cambridge Film Festival, director Nicolas Winding Refn talks fairy tales, pretty women and some risky business.

A visit to Cambridge last weekend perfectly coincided with the running of the 31st Cambridge Film Festival, so I took the opportunity to watch a few films during my stay. One of them was the much anticipated Drive, followed by a Q&A with director Nicolas Winding Refn, who, believe it or not, is car-phobic (after being involved in a number of accidents) and doesn’t even hold a drivers license.

Not that I didn’t enjoy the film with its impressive cinematography, sleek editing and its pulsating soundtrack, but I probably missed about ten minutes while hiding behind my hands during the many violent and gory scenes. So maybe during any foreseeable nightmares, I should really think of Ryan Gosling as the white knight in shining armour (or a silver, Kiss inspired jacket) that Winding Refn intended him to be, rather than a psychotic stuntman by day, getaway driver by night.

After all, Winding Refn reveals, his inspiration came from reading Grimm’s fairy tales to his daughter. Arguably a more surprising source of inspiration is a classic most of us will be familiar with and/or have watched repeatedly (in Winding Refn’s case twice in the cinema): Pretty Woman.

With Drive, Winding Refn has not only crafted a tense thriller, he also succeeds in something few would deem possible: making Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks look unattractive. So how did he do this? Winding Refn explained that he had only heard of Hendricks but wasn’t familiar with the TV series that she is likely to be forever associated with. When he met her for the first time, his intention was for her character to look like American trailer trash. Mission accomplished – she is certainly anything but glamorous during her brief screen time.

After an enlightening thirty minute forum with the director, I was just about to leave the cinema when a fellow attendee collared Winding Refn to ask about the inspiration for the film title artwork. “Risky Business,” whispered Refn.

Here’s hoping Tom isn’t reading this.

The Cambridge Film Festival runs until September 25.

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