Monday, September 7, 2009

Violence and Art?

Hey all,

I'm curious about something--am opening up this discussion to the blog followers and those who might read this post.

The question? Is there a time and place for excessive violence in artistic mediums, if done well and with a purpose?

I ask because I've recently found an online film trailer for All Saints Day, the sequel to The Boondock Saints (written and directed by Troy Duffy). Watch the trailer here.

Now, let me openly admit that I'm not a fan of Friday the 13th or Saw flicks. Too gory for me, and it seems that there isn't a purpose/set of characters I like enough to spend the time with or subject my delicate stomach to. And yet I am gleefully excited about Troy Duffy's upcoming film, which releases on Oct 30th.

Will it be violent? Yes.
Will it likely be super violent and bloody like his first film? Yes.
Is it the violence that I enjoy in the movie? No. It's the characters, and the violence is essential to the story and who they are.

I thought Duffy's original film, The Boondock Saints, was excellent. Bloody, definitely. Violent, absolutely. But the characters, the plot, the background, the conflicts, the way each character is portrayed--absolutely brilliant. I also think it was one of Willem Dafoe's best acting performances in his career. Hence why I will go see the sequel, even though I know it will be as bloody as (or perhaps more so) than the first one.

Perhaps violence is not as unlikable, so long as it's done for a purpose or fits the story? I'm not ever one who likes or enjoys any kind of violence for the sake of violence--and even in Duffy's bloody films I still don't think it's purely gratuitous. Some of it, perhaps. But the story of these 2 Irish brothers couldn't be told without it.

I also hold a soft spot in my creative heart for writer/director Troy Duffy, because I think he's got that resilience, that never-give-up spirit which is inspiring. (Trivia here...the original story idea formed in Duffy's mind when a woman was attacked in his hometown and the perpetrator got away with it. The first film came out of Duffy's anger at the justice system, at the damage done to this woman. Instead of seeking revenge himself or going off on someone, he wrote a script about revenge. That became The Boondock Saints.)

I'm not very patient with director commentaries, and often don't get past the first 10 minutes unless I really admire the person or the work--or both. Duffy's commentary was hilarious and yet inspiring, for the journey to make his first independent film was filled with struggle and chaos. I admire his tenacity and appreciate his sense of humor. This helps me to overlook the excessive violence when I see it as fitting to the story.

What do y'all think?


Scott said...

I think there is a time and place for excessive violence in artistic mediums. I believe Lady Glamis of The Innocent Flower blog (or possible on The Literary Lab) blog did a post about this last week. The comments were very interesting. You should check them out.

Personally, I don't put the excessively violent acts in my writing. I deal with it more as brief moments of flashback to the event, and then the characters current emotional state.

I think if the excessive violence plays an integral part of the story . . . then yeah, it has a place. I just think there's a very fine line where the violence can sway from the artistic, to just too much.


The Writers Canvas said...

Thanks for commenting, Scott. I don't put excessively violent acts in my writing either. In fact there aren't many violent scenes at all.

Guess there's a balancing act to violence. One doesn't want it to overshadow the story, but the enhancing needs to be done well if it's used.

Thx. I'll check out those other blogs you mentioned.


Willena said...

I'm always disturbed by violence and gore. On television shows like Bones or any of the CSIs, I always look away from the screen if there is a gory autopsy or too much blood at a crime scene.

As for the depiction of acts of violence--not something I can tolerate well. I have nightmares. Do you remember a movie called SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY from the 70s? I still have nightmares with flashbacks to that movie.

In particular, I don't like movies that make violence look pretty--splashes of blood spurting out, filmed in slow motion, etc. It's not pretty. It SHOULD be disturbing.

I also don't like movie/tv shows, etc. that have an antihero the lead character, e.g. THE SOPRANOS, DEXTER... I don't want to spend time with morally despicable characters. I don't even like Don Draper on MAD MEN. I quit watching it because his character is the lead.

Oh, I like it when characters are flawed. I just want them to be basically on the side of the angels.

The Writers Canvas said...

Hey Willena,

Thanks for commenting. You bring up a good point, and I definitely have my list of things which make me squeamish. For me, it's not so much the blood and bullets as anything psychological--especially mental or physical torture. Can't even do a hint of torture. I had to leave the theatre at the ending scene of "Braveheart" - maybe they didn't *show* what was happening, but my mind *knew* what was happening - and it creeped me out.

I would not recommend Boondock Saints or the sequel to anyone who is disturbed by bullets or blood, as there is a lot of both in his films. The characters were more original and motivated than what I'd originally expected, though.

Thx for commenting - interesting to see the differing responses...