Sunday, 15 July 2018

When films are too much

I watched Notting Hill on Netflix the other night. I'd never seen it before. I've seen other films from director Richard Curtis like About Time and The Boat That Rocked and I despised them so I didn't hold out much hope for this. I needed a comedy though. Something light and easy. I was genuinely surprised when I enjoyed it. It was nice. It made me laugh. A much needed laugh. The night before I'd watched a film called Wolyn and it genuinely broke me.

I like going into films cold. There's a certain joy in watching a film I know nothing about and it reminds me of days of old before IMDB and wikipedia when watching movies still held some form of surprise. The downside of going into a film cold is you may have a certain idea of what a movie is about only to have the rug pulled grimly from under you. I knew Wolyn was a Polish World War 2 film and for some reason I expected a guerilla warfare film akin to 2008's Defiance. What I got was a film about residents of a region in Eastern Europe called Volhynia being ethnically cleansed by Ukrainian insurgent forces.

It was horrifying and I don't say that lightly. I've seen some messed up films but this genuinely made me feel ill. Men tied between horses and split in two. Shrieking men being skinned alive. Pregnant women disembowelled and young children set alight and left running around screaming while men laughed. TBH, if Id seen this stuff in a horror film you could contextualise it because horror is inherently silly but because it was based on real events it just made it too disturbing. It was distressing. I hated it and I turned it off. It felt exploitative, it made me feel dirty. It felt pornographic to be honest. I know these past events can't be swept aside and lessons need to be learned from history but jesus it didn't all need to be shown so leeringly. 

Films this graphic, who are they made for? Relatives of the victims? Seeing this would break them. Time might have dulled the horrors of the past for them but having their faces rubbed in gruesome detail would be too much for anyone. Historians? They know the details of these atrocities but do they want to see them depicted so graphically. I think not. Horror fans? I don't think so. Anyone that could take enjoyment from a film like this would need to take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror. 

Spielberg's Schindler's List was a brutal look at another terrible period in Polish history but as violent as that film was, he knew when to hold back. He knew the stuff that did not need to be shown. He knew that the things left to the imagination were often far worse than what he could ever depict. Son Of Saul was another similar film. Set in a concentration camp you knew you were in for a tough watch but this was another film that showed it's horrors in's hard to describe this......they were never shown head on. It happened at the edge of the frame or just off screen which made it even more disturbing. There's something to be learned for film makers here. Are they showing all this to be meaningful and teach a lesson? Or is it all just for shock value? 

Anyway. Thank fuck for films like Notting Hill. Sometimes a bit of entertainingly fluff is the best medicine.

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