Monday, May 22, 2006

What Are Violent Films For?

I don't get it. Please explain this.

Film critic Ken Tucker explains in the recent issue of "Entertainment Weekly" that we should watch the brutally violent films of Michael Haneke because "Haneke doesn't splatter the screen or make stupid dead co-ed jokes."

Hey, that's a reason to watch a film about a young man slaughtering a girl like a pig if I ever heard one.
Tucker praises another Haneke offering about two young sociopaths torturing a family because "it makes you feel the agony of violence, thus raising his work to a higher purpose: to recall the distinction between civilized and craven behavior."

You know what, Ken? I don't need to see horrific images of people being tortured and murdered in order to know the difference between heinous and civilized behavior. If you get into the sick thrill of watching such stuff, go for it. That's why Haneke makes it; for people like you. But let's not get all high-falutin' about "the higher purpose" of it all.

Elsewhere in the same issue, Lisa Schwarzbaum reviews the DreamWorks film "Over the Hedge" and expresses concern that the cute little animated animals are a little bit too vengeful toward the humans.
Hey, EW, how about some editorial balance here?

9 Comments:

Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

I looked at imdb.com and didn't see anything about a movie called Doubt. About a month ago I did see Haneke's most recent movie, Cache (starring Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil), but no women are killed in that movie. I am confused.

19:30  
Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

Ahh; I see, I got my headlines confused. I saw you had a posting about reviewing Doubt and didn't realize that was another post.

I have only seen one of Haneke's films (Cache) and the one scene of human violence is brief and not gratuitous. I don't like ultra violent movies at all.

19:33  
Blogger Kim said...

I think watching violent movies is bad for the soul. I believe it does make people more tolerant of violence, less compassionate, less imaginative.
Brain research says you process all memories the same -- you remember those movie scenes as if they really happened to you. That can't be good. (I believe this is one reason so many Americans now believe in demons, ETs, and the devil now. From movies.)
I don't know what the purpose of movies is, but the purpose of novels is to practice compassion (according to Fay Weldon).
I do have an anecdote that illustrates how people become inurred to violence. Would you like to hear the story?

20:11  
Blogger PeaceBang said...

Of course we would!

20:22  
Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Violence in film is cathartic, but at a certain point it does become redundant, boring, pointless, and may indeed damage the soul.

But if you've ever witnessed real violence, as I have, you understand that no amount of fake bloodletting comes even close to the real thing.

20:29  
Blogger Kim said...

But if you've ever witnessed real violence, as I have, you understand that no amount of fake bloodletting comes even close to the real thing.

Fred Small has a good line in a song about that -- I think it goes, "When a soldier takes a hit my friend, it ain't like Hollywood. Bone and guts go flying, and everywhere there's blood. For a moment he is mystified, there must be some mistake, as it all drains out in a crimson lake."
anecdote:
I have asked friends and acquaintences for years to give me some idea how much graphic violence there is in a movie before I will see it. (I haven't voluntarily seen a violent movie since Bonnie and Clyde the first time it came out (late sixties?), and that was just because I had never heard of it before we went.)
So, one evening, our movie group at church was showing "The Celluloid Closet", so I asked my friends if it had any violence in it that I wouldn't want to see. They assured me that it didn't have anything too bad. Partway through the movie, there is a scene so horrible that I ran out and drove all the way home crying.
They hadn't noticed it. I can only think that something has inurred them to something so horrible that I get the creepy crawlies just thinking about it -- and it's been more than ten years since this happened. They aren't particulary callous people, they just like movies.

20:53  
Blogger Chalicechick said...

The funny thing is, I was the other person in Kim's story once.

I said the violence in "The Usual Suspects" wasn't all that bad, considering it was a gangster movie. But it was too much for my mother-in-law.

CC

07:24  
Blogger CK said...

I found a blog explaining at least one study here.

The post shows the PET scans of the brains watching violent television contrasted with not watching violence (a blue screen).

It's a good place to start--the question is, though, about how these biological facts fit into the way we view the world. The fact that our brain responds as if we are undergoing/part of the trauma ourselves doesn't mean that we actually are--or that we will interpret that event as violence to ourself. There are other cognitive factors to consider--awareness of the event being fiction, for example.

Kim said,
I believe this is one reason so many Americans now believe in demons, ETs, and the devil now. From movies.

But Americans along with other cultures have always had beliefs in supernatural things--before the advent of television and movies. The War of the Worlds radio program caused a ginormous panic--without any flickering images, only the beliefs of people plus sounds. How many people who believe in the devil believe in it because they saw Rosemary's Baby--or because their sacred texts tells them that entity exists?

If violence in television and movies is a bad thing, I think we need to do more than demonstrate that it mimics real violence in our brains; we need to talk about what it is being used for, and portrayed as. As a non-TV watcher (a few hours at most a week on network TV), I think that the "redundancy" of violence has as much to do with the intake of the media itself as with the violent content.

If you watch large doses of movies, then you'll get lots of violence. But if you are selective about your watching habits, you will probably be less exposed to violence--and can limit your intake to films such as Schindler's List where the violence is intentional.

12:04  
Blogger Kim said...

But Americans along with other cultures have always had beliefs in supernatural things--before the advent of television and movies.

Of course that's true. but, since the enlightenment, that has been going down in numbers. Now it's going back up, particularly in the U.S. A fairly large percentage of Americans believe that the devil is a real person, etc. I don't want to say the number from memory, since I might remember it wrong, but I am always shocked by the numbers.

17:21  

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