Featherstone, M (2021) Primal Crime: Visions of the Law and Its Transgression in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Cinema. International Journal for the Semiotics of Law - Revue internationale de Sémiotique juridique, 34 (1). pp. 49-67. ISSN 0952-8059

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In this paper I consider contemporary expressions of what Freud called the primal crime and collapse of paternal law through an exploration of the cinema of the Danish-American Director Nicolas Winding Refn. Introducing the paper I outline Freud’s theory of the law, crime, and civilization, where social order and its transgression become caught in an endless cycle, before moving on to explore Winding Refn’s cinema. Following this work, where I centrally show how Freud founds the law upon structures of the family and criminality, I consider Winding Refn’s early Danish films, specifically the Pusher trilogy and Bleeder, in order to show how he imagines the collapse of law and order into crime and violence through stories of the ruined family. Moving on, I explore the consequences of this situation through reference to Winding Refn’s middle period films, Bronson and Valhalla Rising, where first crime completely dominates the law, and second this situation conjures the idea of escape from the dystopia of violence and crime into some other utopian space. Finally, I explore Winding Refn’s later works, Drive, Only God Forgives, and The Neon Demon. In these films Winding Refn imagines the ruins of the family and the oedipal law of the father who is no longer on the scene and tells the story of the desperate orphaned child who grows up without the socio-symbolic structures in place in tell them how to live. At this point Winding Refn’s crime system is more or less entirely normalised with the result that it generates the idea of utopian possibility in order to imagine potential escape from the nihilistic horror of an asocial system where exchange is everything.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: As part of the Springer Nature SharedIt initiative, you can now publicly view a full-text view-only version of this paper at https://rdcu.be/bHMUc
Uncontrolled Keywords: Nicolas Winding Refn, cinema, psychoanalysis, law, crime, dystopia utopia
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Science and Public Policy
Depositing User: Symplectic
Date Deposited: 27 Jun 2019 07:54
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2021 14:02
URI: https://eprints.keele.ac.uk/id/eprint/6535

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