The British filmmaker Michael Winterbottom today defended scenes that portray extreme violence against women in his latest film, saying that he felt the need to stay true to the pulp fiction novel on which it is based.
The Killer Inside Me
, an adaptation of the 1952 novel by Jim Thompson depicts brutal scenes of rough sex and murder.
One scene sees the main character, deputy sheriff Lou Ford – played by Casey Affleck – bludgeon his prostitute girlfriend (Jessica Alba) almost to
death until her face is unrecognisable, while later another woman (Kate Hudson) is punched repeatedly. She chokes to death as her killer and lover slips on her urine.
The attacks, accompanied by the music of Gustav Mahler and the opera Norma by
Vincenzo Bellini as well as jaunty swing tunes, are captured in close-up camera shots. Those and the sound of gurgling blood and cracking bones leave little to the imagination.
Speaking today a press screening of the film at the Berlin film
festival, which saw people walking out and booing, Winterbottom said he had deliberately intended for the film to shock: It was intentionally shocking. The whole point of the story is, here is someone who is supposed to be in love with two women who
he beats to death, and of course the violence should be shocking. If you make a film where the violence is entertaining, I think that's very questionable .
Winterbottom appeared to be mildly irritated by the criticism, which observers in
Berlin say may lead to scenes being cut before it can be made available to a wider audience: Loads of films promote violence as entertainment, but I don't think this one does and neither would I want to do something that's going to encourage violence.
The first was the Quentin Tarantino movie Inglourious Basterds .
I should have remembered that Tarantino's signature is extreme and graphic violence, even though it is purportedly tongue-in-cheek - and an in-joke on other movies - and
is therefore considered the last word in fashionable postmodern irony.
What's more disturbing by far than the actual images of blood and gore, however, is the psychopathic sadism and indifference to suffering displayed by the Brad Pitt character
and his band of killers, who beat heads to pulp and twist fingers in open wounds.
All of this is played for laughs. But what exactly are we supposed to be laughing at? Sadism? Suffering? Genocide?
Yet for such a stomach-turning farrago,
Tarantino receives mass adulation. Apart from the Baftas, Inglourious Basterds has received eight Academy Award nominations and the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival. Michael Winterbottom
The second shock to my system at 38,000ft up was the American thriller Law Abiding Citizen.
...what makes it so repellent is the extreme sadism of the murders that the vengeful victim carries out, slowly dismembering his family's attacker in order to inflict upon him as much agony as possible - and in which the perpetrator of
this torture, the supposed victim of injustice, takes a psychopathic pleasure.
If there's supposed to be some message in these movies about revenge or justice, it certainly evaded me. These are simply exceptionally nasty, cynical pieces of
The slickness in their making barely disguises the fact that these films are seriously sick. What is so disturbing is the sadism - the fact that the characters take such pleasure in causing other human beings extreme agony.
In one of the latest examples, the British director Michael Winterbottom has defended scenes in his film The Killer Inside Me that portray extreme violence against women.
This, apparently, depicts brutal scenes of rough sex and murder;
the violence, carried out to a soundtrack of classical music, is depicted in close-up shots that leave little to the imagination.
So awful is all this that, when the movie was screened last weekend at the Berlin Film Festival, there were walk-outs
Winterbottom claimed he had deliberately set out to shock. If you make a film where the violence is entertaining, I think that's very questionable, he said.
That's why it is so sick. Winterbottom says it wouldn't lead to
actual violence against women because such acts are depicted as ugly and the central character, a policeman with a secret liking of sadomasochistic sex, is an unattractive figure.
But this isn't how such films work on people's psyche. Their main
danger is that they have in general a desensitising or brutalising effect - and may indeed inspire a few disturbed individuals to commit acts of violence themselves.
They break the taboos against extreme behaviour simply by portraying that
behaviour - and thus help destroy the constraints that preserve elementary norms of decency.
Saw the bit about Melanie Phillips and in flight torture porn. To hear a woman who supports the illegal mass murder of thousands of Iraqis and the
Israeli war machine's slaughter of Palestinians bleating about the damaging effects of violent films is hilarious!
Jessica Alba gets violently beaten in her new film The Killer Inside Me - but does that really make it one of the most controversial films ever made?
The film has seemingly split the critics between those who think it's a bold and dark
piece of adult film making, and those who think it's a gruesome portrayal of misogyny.
British director Michael Winterbottom has defended his work to Sky News, insisting if he was going to adapt one of the most famous graphic pulp novels of the
fifties, he would have to stay true to the original vision: Obviously this is a story that involves some violence towards women and I can understand that is shocking. It should be shocking. If you made a film where there's a guy beating up a woman and
it was enjoyable that would be wrong. The original novel was written by Jim Thompson.
Most critics have picked up on two particular scenes in this remake, one of which features Jessica Alba's character getting battered by the murderous Lou
Ford, played to chilling effect by Casey Affleck.
The BBFC passed it uncut as an 18 Certificate, saying the scenes in question do not eroticise or endorse sexual assault or pose a credible harm risk to viewers of 18 and over .
director, though, hopes open-minded cinema fans will at least give it a chance. Every interview has been about the violence of the film which I understand because violence is shocking, he sighs: But at the same time it's a shame we don't get to
talk about the actors and the dialogue and the story. There are two violent scenes in the whole film and the rest of it is a portrayal of Lou Ford as a sort of interesting, complex and violent character. Unfortunately we never get onto that part as we
end up talking about the violence.