When Drive(2011) was released I was in the mood to sit down, alone, in the cinema and fully immerse myself in a motion picture. Ryan Gosling had the lead role – that was a bonus. What I was really searching for was a film I could brood over for days and Drive seemed to fit the criteria. All I remember from the trailer was the figure of The Driver and how alone he was – he was an isolated figure and a mystery. I think most creative types of any background can testify that during the artistic process you do spend a fair amount of time on your own. Consequently I often find myself identifying with characters which exist very much alone. The outcome of my trip to the cinema was great, I got everything that I expected. I smiled to myself, I cried at parts, it was a complete emotional catharsis which I just can’t seem to go through if I have friends sat next to me who are also weeping into their pop corn. After a few weeks, mulling over the film on and off and I left it behind and occupied myself with other cultural obsessions.
This year at the end of June, my interest in Drive was reignited when I got the DVD and watched the extras. There is a forty minute video of a Q&A with the director Nicolas Winding Refn which cemented my utter fascination with the film. I always knew that Drive was really a beautiful love story set against a backdrop of violence and electro pop music. I did not, however, realise the depth of this love story in a film which is so stylised and genre-aware. In the Q&A Refn explains:
“When Drive came about I had this idea…what if we do a love story in LA, but there was never the complication of love it was more like the innocence of love and what we would like love to be – and in order to have that he [The Driver] would also need to protect it later on so he could justify the extreme violence.”
Inspired by the Grimms’ fairy tales which he had been reading to his eldest daughter a few years ago, Refn highlights the fairytale aspects of Drive when romantic ideals of love and heroism are interspersed with bloody violence and darkness. The contrast between the two themes are illustrated very well – the love is pure and untouched whilst the violence is very visceral indeed. If Drive is, as Refn says, a film about protecting the idea of love, the solitary nature of The Driver becomes even more significant. The ideal of love, of love without the complications, can only exist when a person is alone. The idea is untainted because it is preserved by its creator. It reflects their desires and their expectations. In other words, what they imagine love to be. The idea is challenged once it is open to the outside world and subjected to the influences of others through their actions which may be fuelled by their own ideas of love. I think it is fascinating that Refn includes this subject at the heart of his film because what is more magical and cinematic than unrealised love? It’s just like a fairy tale.