Friday, May 21, 2010

Torture, part 2 (by Suzie)

A letter-writer for Amnesty International, I loved “Closet Land,” a 1991 movie about an author of children’s books and her interrogator. Amnesty International was involved, and the movie appears to link the abuse of women by men with the abuse of citizens by the state. (I understand that the author has disavowed Amnesty.) People remain silent at their own peril.

At a party at my home, a man noted that I had the video and said, with a knowing smirk, that he liked it, too. He meant he got off on BDSM. Some fellow BDSM supporters might argue that a movie depicting torture isn’t the same thing; others might say that it is because the audience knows that the torture isn’t real, and that the actors were acting. Other people don't bother with these arguments. They just think the actors are hot. Read the comments on this YouTube video. Someone even put clips of the torture to a Kelly Clarkson song. This quote from Jodie Foster applies:
There will be unsophisticated people who see a sophisticated movie. Just like there were in The Accused. And thank God I only went to one screening of that movie with an audience. … They cheered the rape. It was awful. And that wasn't an isolated event. It happened all over the country. But I don't think you can legislate your audience. If you're going to make a movie that explores dramatic violence, do you change it because you're worried that people aren't going to take it properly?
I'd change it. I’m with producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, who had to defend their decision not to show the rape and murder of a teenager in the movie version of “The Lovely Bones.”

This week, a friend said she couldn't watch “Closet Land.” Although much of the torture is off-screen, and as much as I love Alan Rickman, I’d edit the hell out of the movie to make it watchable for women who would get out of it what I did. Ditto for “Dogville,” whose ending I loved, for the most part, although I despise Lars von Trier. There is a limit to my compassion and understanding.

In 2006, David Edelstein wrote about the rise of torture in art and mainstream movies. (“Torture porn” can refer to torture in movies not meant to be pornographic as well as porn that portrays torture for sexual titillation.) Edelstein’s article would be better if he had mentioned gender. I know some women like horror movies, but young men are the prime audience. It reinforces their masculinity to watch without screaming or running out of the theater or putting their hands over their eyes – like a girl, ewww.

I reject torture because it’s both inhumane and ineffective. I do not want to see anyone tortured, whether male or female. Nevertheless, I took great pleasure from the turned tables in “Hard Candy” and “Freeway.” If you can't watch them, however, I won’t fault your ability to remain detached - a quality respected by the film critic criticized in Echidne's post below. After all, what would the world be like if people couldn't remain detached from torture so that they could see the bigger picture or the more important issues?