Monday 14 June 2010

Why do I pay good money to see such uncomfortably violent films?

In 2002 it was 'Irreversible' with its graphic and prolonged vicious assault and rape in a subway as well as a seeing a man beaten to death (also in 'loving' detail) with a fire extinguisher. Then last year we had 'Antichrist' with the Charlotte Gainsbourg character snipping of her own clit and knocking unconscious the Willem Dafoe character before shooting a bolt into his calf which she uses to chain him to a large stone weight. Then, hot on its heels, we've already got this year's gore-fest offering. I've just come back from seeing 'The Killer Inside Me' and, boy oh boy! NOT for the faint-hearted - unless you really want to see two females gut-wrenchingly battered as surely never been shown on screen before (at least in a commercially produced 'mainstream' film) one of them with her face repeatedly punched, beaten almost literally to a pulp. But do please note these acts were committed because the perpetrator, erm, 'loved them'! Although in all these three films, such was their notoriety, I'd heard in advance what was in store for me, and I wondered if I'd be able to keep my eyes on the screen . I knew I'd flinch, to say the least. But it seemed a bit of a challenge to see if I could watch without looking away. I failed - but only averting my gaze for mini-seconds.
The psychology of wanting to watch such films is troubling. I've never assaulted anyone in my entire life - not even an animal. (Why did I just say 'even'?) But I dare say there are individuals around who will get a vicarious thrill from seeing two women get smashed up in extremis. So why do I go? Partly because, having been an ardent cineaste since I was 20, these are, after all, 'significant' films. But I suppose there's also an element of a sort of 'badge of honour' in having sat through them. What's also worrying is that I actually purposely avoid seeing films where I know that there will be the depiction of violence done to an animal - even if I know it's done by screen effects and that no animal is actually hurt. Of course similar screen tricks are also employed in showing violence against humans, but cruelty towards animals presses additional buttons in me - I just don't want those scenes rattling around in my head.
So there's another film which is going to linger and linger and give me nightmares. Oh well! Now, what shall I have for dinner?


  1. Why do you pay money? The better question is, Why do you want to see them at all?

    I avoid that stuff as much as I can. I will not see it at the cinema. But sometimes Greg wants to see a particular movie with violence so we rent it and watch it at home. There I can leave the room or refuse to watch.

    I can't stand violence or gore. I don't think it's entertaining on any level. How entertaining do you find it, really?

    Oddly, I love mixed martial arts. A mystery to be sure.

  2. God knows why, Larry. Perhaps it's a kind of harmless 'release' that I need. Must admit that, sad to say, I DO see it as a form of 'entertainment' - though I don't mean this type of film in particular. This kind is just one of a number of 'genres' - comedy, thriller, sci-fi, horror etc. Oddly enough, unlike you, I'm bored silly with martial arts films, as I am usually (but not always) by Westerns.

  3. I totally agree with Larry -I don't do violent films - neither at the theatre nor DVD. Violence bothers me and even more so when it is directed at a defenseless animal. Like you, I don't do martial art films and westerns. Sometimes, I will make an exception and watch a western, but that depends on who's in the cast and the story. Oddly enough, one of my favorite films is a western from the 50's - "Red River" with the beautiful Montgomery Clift.

  4. Paul, I feel a bit 'dirty' on this, the morning after. But at the same time, thinking back on the experience I'm ashamed to say I also feel oddly exhilerated, which is quite scary. If the chance were to come I wouldn't want to watch any of these films for a second time, but at least if nothing else it puts me in a better position to respond to criticism. (Btw I MUST have seen 'Red River' sometime, though I can't recall anything from it. But I agree that Montgomery Clift certainly was a hottie in his day.)

  5. I'm used to seeing gore and violence in film and it doesn't both me too much. Gratuitous or shock gore and violence, on the other hand, are the easiest way to turn me off to a film. I'd rather use my imagination for those things anyway. The less representations of violence and gore in a film the better it has of being seen in our household.

  6. Kyle, I wished I had your ability to 'distance' yourself from the depiction of violence.
    Another of THE most disturbing films I've seen in recent years was 'Funny Games' in the original Austrian version. (It was re-made as an American film shortly after, which I haven't seen.) Every bit of violence was OFF-screen and yet it carried such a visceral 'punch' (if I may use that word!) It's another film I couldn't watch again. I'd be interested to know if you've seen or plan to see any of the three films I mention above - and even more interested to know your reaction to them.