Violence on film turns some of us away - Monocolumn | Monocle


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23 February 2012

The other day I heard a woman interviewed on the radio about the film The Artist. She had a connection to the movie that doesn’t need explaining here. But in short, the interviewer was enticing her to see the film for the purposes of his programme and she said, “OK, but if that dog gets killed I’ll never forgive you.”

And I knew what she meant.

Sometimes it doesn’t matter how brave or intriguing a film may supposedly be, I’m just not willing to see a dog killed or a man mutilated or a woman shot. Sometimes I want a happy ending – or at least be able to get into bed without fear of turning off the lights.

Is it age? Maybe. When I was younger the thought of a ride on a killer rollercoaster had a certain appeal. Now I just think why would I want to make myself sick? It’s the same with films. Why would I want to see a movie that promises to scare the wits out of me when I could be having a nice dinner? I don’t need to prove to anyone that these films have no impact on me – they do.

I have developed a set of movie phobias that goes beyond most people’s average concerns. Primarily I cannot watch anything involving operations or injections or with too much blood. But even I make mistakes when picking a night in front of the big screen (the presence of an injection is not always mentioned in a review).

I made the mistake of going to see Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In and spent a good hour of the film under my coat. The scenes I saw through my fingers left me perspiring like I was in the tropics. I’d only gone to improve my Spanish. At least it was not my Pulp Fiction injection moment – I had to lie down on the cinema’s floor because I was about to faint and had gone a full-on shade of green.

These things are easier when you’re at home. I have just watched the second series of Boardwalk Empire. Well, I watched 90 per cent of it. When cleavers were being inserted in skulls I would wander off to the kitchen, find a glass of wine, dry a cup, do anything.

Some violence is fine – Bourne films, not a problem. But that ‘we want to make you throw up’ kind of violence I am happy to pass on. Oddly, I have no squeamishness about the real thing – war photography I can cope with.

As the Oscars near, I have a feeling I am not alone. The Best Picture nominees include not just The Artist but Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and Hugo. These are films that despite broken relationships, fires and lost opportunities, don’t leave you gasping for breath. And they have directors who know that the dog must live.

I know what film I want to win Best Picture this year.


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