Violence in Cinema

In Commentary, FILM, THEATRE & TV, HOME by Sam Prance

Ever since I was first shown Saving Private Ryan, whilst eating a Chinese, I think I became immune to the effects of violence in cinema. Stirring my beansprouts around my plate, whilst observing men leave their beansprouts on a beach, I figured that there would never be anything I could be shown which would be harder to stomach.

large_saving_private_ryan_blu-ray2.5xNo longer are there films which make me squirm or wriggle, no longer do I participate in sharp inhales of breath in episodes of Game of Thrones. No longer do I shy away from the red stuff. Is this because I am a psychopath? Perhaps…but I hope note. I think it more likely stems from this viewing of Saving Private Ryan and watching Gladiator when I was a little bit too young.

Either way, this has had a profound effect on the way I watch cinema. I believe that using violence in the correct scenes and at the right places can really improve a film – and that it can even make a film in some scenarios. Take 12 Years a Slave for example. It is an extraordinarily powerful film, which at its crux is made up of unadulterated brutality. Violence shapes the film and creates those memorable moments, the parts audiences were talking about afterwards. Without it the film would not have been the same.

However, when making a case such as this, I am drawn to one of my favourite directors of all time: Quentin Tarantino. Tarantino is behind some of the most successful pieces of cinema but that doesn’t stop him being accused of the over use of ‘superfluous’ violence and his simplification of brutality. From Kill Bill to Pulp Fiction violence has dominated his work and probably the film for which he has come across the highest level of rebuke is Django Unchained.

You can see why, the film has its moments, most notably the shootout in Calvin Candie’s house. And yet to me, the people who argued against Tarantino with regards to this film, those that complained about his work the most, are those who understood the piece the least. If you trace Tarantino backwards you’ll get to his roots in cinema and it is here that you find the basis of Django’s violence.

Tarantino started in grindcore, a sub genre that is responsible for gems like From Dusk ‘till Dawn, Planet Terror and more recently Hobo with a Shotgun. Tarantino’s use of violence in Django was a throwback to where he came from, it was a return to his grindcore roots and with both this in mind and the fact that it is an incredibly well-executed film – with great performances, great writing and great themes – it makes for very interesting watching.

So for those who view Django as a perverse piece of violent cinema – it is possible to see that infamous scene in the house in a more artistic light. Allow yourself to recognise the vision involved and to consider where the director was coming from when he created it. Perhaps you’ll find that you can open up your viewing of such a scene and see the film in a whole new light. 

Rupert Radley

Rupert Radley contributes weekly to the film section of The Student. He studies Politics at the University of Edinburgh. His interests are summed up by film, cats and coffee. We could go on about Rupert a bit more but that’s about it really.

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