Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Screen Violence

This week's lecture focused on violence on screen and its effects off screen. In both the lecture and seminar we discussed the way in which violence is becoming more and more commonplace in television and film. Our attraction and fascination with all things violent is particularly evident when it comes to video games, with almost all of the top-selling games involving an element of killing. Now that gaming graphics have reached the point where the characters actually look like real humans, the gore in these games is beginning to become all too realistic. Probably the best known example of these games creating real-life catastrophe is the 1999 school massacre in Columbine. I'm sure that anybody reading this will be familiar with the awful events that took place so I shan't go into detail, however there is no doubt in my mind that the video game 'Doom', which both of the teens were obsessed with, influenced the killers to carry out the terrible acts of destruction and murder. In my opinion, indulging in play-violence in these games is something which is not healthy for anybody, even the most level-headed individuals. However, I agree with Bill's argument that after playing these games, the player still retains their freedom to reflect and we have the choice of whether to act violently or not. 

On-screen violence is something which we barely even notice any more, with the development of prosthetics and special effects meaning that war or murder scenes can now be as thrilling as a high-speed car chase. Although only very lightheartedly, even action comedy films such as Mr & Mrs Smith are helping to normalise violence. They are a stereotypical, rich, American couple whose private lives revolve around killing and violence. At the very end of the film we see a scene which is essentially domestic violence played out to the upbeat song 'Express Yourself' which keeps it lighthearted and helps to sanitize the violence. 

In the seminar, Ivan asked us to think about our own personal views on screen violence and our individual thresholds. I was interested to find that the majority of people weren't that bothered by people being shot or even blown up, but were instead more affected by scenes of victims being stabbed. As strange as it sounds, there is something very intimate about somebody being stabbed due to the close contact and force which is required. It is much more of a physical act compared with shooting which can be seen as quite impersonal, with acts like this there is much more of a willingness to harm somebody else, and that is what makes it more frightening. 

A film which I really struggled to watch was Les Femmes dans l'Ombre (2008), a film about a group of female agents in the second World War. Apart from the obviously disturbing torture scenes (which involved some very graphic fingernail-pulling images), the part which upset me the most was when the main character, Louise, has her head held underwater whilst being interrogated. This act in itself didn't upset me as much as the fact that she is, at this point in the plot, around 5 months pregnant. In between forcing her head underwater over and over again, the torturers punch and kick Louise in the stomach whilst she screams and cries out. Having watched this film with a group of girls (none of whom have ever been pregnant if you were wondering) I was shocked at how much this scene, more than any others seemed to affect us. In scenes like this, we put ourselves in the position of the victim and emotionally connect with what is happening. We could all see how absolutely distraught Louise was at having her baby harmed in this way, and although there was no blood or gore, I can honestly say that it made me feel physically sick. 
It also goes without saying that the clip from Un Chien Andalou (1929) which we were shown in the lecture was also pretty difficult to stomach. 

A more recent example of screen violence which caused great controversy was This is England '86. In the final episode, we see Lol's evil father attempt to rape her, before she manages to beat him to death with a hammer. Many viewers complained to Channel 4 about the disturbing scene, however I think that it really made the entire series. As difficult as it was to watch, it brought a huge shock value to the programme and was totally unexpected. The soft piano music that plays during the attack is a huge contrast to the violence on screen but seems to make the whole thing even more disturbing and haunting. 

This is England '86 murder scene

Even writing this blog post has creeped me out, shows how little I can stomach when it comes to screen violence. 

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