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The Movies Inside Jim Thompson

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Mark Kermode | 11:25 UK time, Friday, 4 June 2010

A few brutal moments in Michael Winterbottom's movie adaptation of Jim Thompson's searing portrait of a sociopath, The Killer Inside Me, has kindled the inevitable debate about violence on film. I know where I stand.

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  • Comment number 1.

    I don't think violence against women in film has to make you feel physically ill in order to convey the message that it's wrong. The best example of this - A Clockwork Orange. The entire 'Singing in the Rain' sequence sits beautifully between macabre black comedy and genuine horror. The first time I saw it I was genuinely shocked at what was happening, but the more I see it the more the humour comes out.

    The point is that just because that scene is funny doesn't mean it doesn't work as a portrayal of repulsive violence against women. By making us laugh at something so nasty, Kubrick pulls off the same trick he did in Dr. Strangelove - he makes something deadly serious and dangerous seem completely ridiculous, and when we realise that what we are watching is actually serious, we realise how desensitised we are to female violence and therefore how we are ultimately as depraved as Alex, even if our actions are not identical.

    That for me works better than any kind of overt shock tactics or lecturing, whether in horror or anything else.

  • Comment number 2.

    well i think that should go with the theme of the film. in kick-ass an 11 year old girl is getting beaten to a pulp in one scene, yet it seemes to be ok because she can defend herself.
    but if,the violence is only one aspet of this film, then it really should not overshadow the film itself. violence against women should be treated as the character giving the violence sees fit. this will make the character misogynistic, not the film.
    im going to see this film now as i think its hopefully going to be a reall shocker, the same as the book

  • Comment number 3.

    Uh-huh-hum, not so fast Kermode, before you go leaping head first into assuming the seriousness of this film. Kate 'Bride Wars' Hudson and Jessica 'Resident Fantastic Four Stripper' Alba, are both women you've constantly written off as rubbish, lightweight actresses. Well now they've been deemed good enough at their job by your beloved Michael Winterbottom, to star in a Jim Thompson adaptation alongside the acclaimed Casey Affleck. Even if they're the sideshow, I think you owe them some recognition for that. I'm sure we both agree that we'd all rather see Hudson make darker films like this and Iain Softley's The Skeleton Key than her typically woeful studio comedies.

  • Comment number 4.

    There is a question that I haven't heard asked or answered by Winterbottom (who I agree is one of our greaqtest directors) - why did he choose a book that deals so centrally with violence against women? Digging into that would be a more useful line of enquiry than setting it up for him to say violence should be repulsive. Whatever his answer to that was I would find it hard to discount the possibility that he wanted to explore the subject of violence against women. That is not the same thing as taking direct pleasure in it, but it does imply that there is some sort of need for going into the sort of detail he appears to have done in this film.

  • Comment number 5.

    I haven't seen Winterbottom's new film yet, because it hasn't opened where I live, but I can speak to a similar question that the movie The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo raised for me. I had a debate with a friend who refused to see the film because what she had read about its depiction of sexual violence. And I felt there were parts of that film that were really hard to watch - a rape scene, specifically. But I actually approved of the way this scene was done. It WAS incredibly difficult to watch. But I think it should be. Rape is a devastating crime and I think it should be shown that way when it is represented in films.

    It has become a bit of a cliche to talk about nonchalant depictions of violence these days. But for me, a problem with most instances of violence on film is that we never see the lasting effects of violence on people's lives. So especially when it comes to sexual violence, I think it is really important that it be raw and shocking. I would be MUCH more horrified to see a rape scene that was "easy" to watch than one that made me really uncomfortable.

  • Comment number 6.

    I think the scene has to be judged from two perspectives: moral and aesthetic.

    Firstly, does the scene glorify violence against women?
    Secondly, and ultimately, does the scene work for or against the film as a whole?

    On the question of should all violence against women on screen be portrayed in a repulsive, horrible, revolting way, I'd refer back to what I wrote above. Does it glorify violence against women? If yes, cut the scene. Does it take away from or derail the film as a whole? If yes, cut the scene.

  • Comment number 7.

    I think Winterbottom is right, it would be far more offensive if scenes of brutal violence against women were presented in a manner that didn't shock or upset the audience.

    Surely films like the Saw sequels and Hostel, where the promise of sadistic violence is presented as the actual attraction of the film, are far more reprehensible?

  • Comment number 8.

    I would say that a film can portray misogyny without being misogynist itself. That's not to say that there is/isn't anything misogynist in this film, because I haven't seen it.

    It seems that the portrayal of horrible, disgusting things in this film are suitably horrible and disgusting.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think all on screen violence should make the watcher feel uneasy. Film like Die Hard and Leon for me had violence that made me feel uneasy as people were blown apart by guns.

    I think violence on screen without that punch of uneasiness (if that’s a word) fails in its attempt to portray the fear and unpredictability of violence.

    Another example is Kill Bill 1. Okay the film was rubbish but when she slammed that guy’s head in the door over and over again it made me cringe, which is what on screen violence (or any violence onscreen or off) should make you (a human) feel.

  • Comment number 10.

    I find that films which are accused of being racist, homophobic or sexist by the mainstream media are very often the exact opposite (see White Dog, Cruising, and Antichrist). They are confronting these taboos head-on and being honest about them. I felt particularly uncomfortable when watching Hit Girl's entrance in Kick-Ass, not because I found it evil or offensive, but I did find that casual portrayal of extreme violence as perpetuated by a child disturbing, particularly because the filmmakers were enjoying it so much. I'm in the middle of reading The Killer Inside Me and already it's a more moral story than Kick-Ass or most Hollywood films that contain violence.

  • Comment number 11.

    Also, I'd just like to say that last Friday's show was cracking to listen to. Winterbottom and Clarke were fantastic guests. :)

  • Comment number 12.

    I think the question is not whether it lingers on the violence, instead the question should be whether it glorifies the violence. Violence against women happens everyday in the world and it is brutal and horrific. As long as the violence is not glorified (as you have said it was not in this case) then a representation on film should be acceptable. And in the end if it serves the story, is told with a grain of truth, and does not make the violence seem appealing, then it's acceptable. As a woman I would rather see a movie with violence toward women that has a point and a story to tell then a movie with violence whose only point is "look how many clever ways I can kill people" any day.

  • Comment number 13.

    I still haven't decided if I'm going to see this movie yet, so can't really comment in full.
    However,I do agree with "Rich Indeed" and his comment on movies such as Saw and Hostel. These type of movies are made for all the wrong reasons. As I metioned in the "Nightmare on Elm Street" thread I do like a good horror but it has to have something to say other than "Rollup, roll-up come see humans being sadistically tortured for your pleasure".
    Violence agains women is a particularly dangerous and difficult area to walk in terms of movies. I remember a very similar debate about Jonathan Kaplan's The Accused when it came out. Do we need to see such things on film? There was a question as to whether the victim deserved her fate, which is also a complaint about the Winterbottom movie, in that the women keep going back for more.
    I actually went to see The Accused and found it to be quite a powerful piece of cinema. The rape scene was extremely disturbing and agonising; in other words how it should be portrayed.
    It really depends on why it is being shown, does it serve a moral purpose and not a gratuitous or titilating one? I cannot comment myself on this particular movie yet, however I did find it interesting that Messrs Mayo and Kermode were completely divided in opinion.
    I have to say (from what was said on last weeks show)that I do find it questionable that Winterbottom chose to linger on the deaths of the female victims and yet devoted a small amount of screen time to the deaths of the male victims.
    I would imagine that the movie centres around the character of Lou Ford and portraying his psyche, so why not show all his murders equally to give a balanced approach.
    The trailer also seems to suggest that the women understand Lou Ford and accept him even though their very lives are threatened by him. Again another treacherous area to tread. Although in reality there are probably women who love and cannot leave dangerous men in their lives, nobody wants to have violence inflicted against them. I can only hope that this movie is balanced in its approach, and doesn't do women an injustice.

  • Comment number 14.

    I'm suprised that Dr K hasn't mentioned the 1976 version starring Stacey Keach...I haven't seen this one either but would be intrigued to hear how it handled the violence, if anyone has seen it.
    Also forgot to mention The Grifters as a fine example of Jim Thompson on celluloid

  • Comment number 15.

    Noble Doc,

    Although I haven't read the book, the original Peckinpah-helmed version of The Getaway is terrific. The scene where McQueen slaps and punches Ali MacGraw around is - I think - still hard to watch but it absolutely serves the story and, therefore, is necessary.

  • Comment number 16.

    To be crude but honest, my criterion for judging whether a filmic depiction of violence against women is acceptable is the question of: "is it shot in such a way that many teenage boys would get an erection while watching it".

    I think many of Brian De Palma's films (for example) have scenes where violence against women is shot in such a way that the violence is eroticised and the viewer is invited to identify with the perpetrator.

    I haven't yet seen Irreversible (on my to-do list) but I have seen original Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave (Day of the Woman) and, speaking as a feminist myself, I approve of the protracted and graphic depictions in these films of the sexual violence against women because: a) I don't think they'd induce an erection in any male apart from the most extremely perverse and b) I think they encourage the viewer to identify with the horror of the victim's situation rather than the delight of the perpetrators of the violence.

    Despite both of these films being extremely controversial and oft cited as the ultimate in video-nasties I think they both confront us (more than most popular entertainment) with extremely important questions about morality and the nature of human beings. I find it interesting that, of the slew of video-nasty movies showing violence against women of that era, most male reviewers seemed to get penis-cringe at the only 2 movies that depicted victims getting bloody revenge.

  • Comment number 17.

    There is a difference between portraying misogyny and being misogynistic, it's all about intention and context. Gaspar Noe was absolutely right to draw out the rape scene in Irreversible because the audience really needs to feel the full brunt of the brutality to truly grasp the horror and consequences of the crime and there is another extremely graphic rape scene in Man Bites Dog which is designed to shock the audience out of desensitization. There is so much violence and cruelty directed towards Rosselini's character in Blue Velvet that we could sit here and make a list. But those scenes are meticulously employed to serve the overall purpose of films which are not misogynistic in intent and, while it makes the end product more difficult to watch, they would neither be as potent or significant without them.

    On the other hand, there is brainless fluff like The Ugly Truth and Sex and the City, which haven't a graphic beating or rape in sight and yet are infinitely more degrading. So I wouldn't argue that misogyny is related to violence so much as it is related to attitude.

    I've been dying to see The Killer Inside Me for a while now but if it's handled like Winterbottom's other films have been over here in the past, I have a feeling that it will be a while yet before I get the chance. His films can be a bit hit-or-miss (with 9 Songs a way miss) but Winterbottom is such an amazingly flexible director and not shy to try his hand at anything. I'm really eager to see how his treatment of a crime thriller turns out and our review just makes me more anticipative.

    @Redfield: But weren't both Hit Girl and Big Daddy intended to be disturbing characters? The violence in Kick Ass walked a very fine line between comedy and subversion and in my opinion pulled it off well. If anything it could be argued as anti-Hollywood.

  • Comment number 18.

    Hello Good Doctor,

    I really enjoyed (if enjoy is the right verb) Bernard Tarvenier's adaptation of Pop 1280, Coup de Torchon (Clean Slate). I read The Killer Inside Me and Pop 1280 back to back, and they seemed very similar in them and tone, a weak and sensitive man on the surface, a push over who likes to push back, and is insensitive to the point of sociopathic.
    Coup de Torchon makes an anti-hero of it's protagonist, and I'm sure, if it were remade today, the director would be called out as racist in the same way that Michael Winterbottom's film is being called sexist.
    I've seen a clip of The Killer Inside Me. Of Jessica Alba being beaten to a pulp. It doesn't make me want to see the film, but the unflinching camera leads me to believe that the film is close in tone to the book. And the book didn't strike me as sexist. I'd say the writer doesn't hate women, he simply writes sociopaths very well, and anyone who can empathise or sympathise with the protag. needs the inside of their head examined. With a spoon.

  • Comment number 19.

    Dear Dr.K,

    Alright first off Mr Mayo is making that common mistake of accusing a film about a misogynist being misogynistic itself. It is not - nor does the film advocate anything he does or paint it up to look attractive in any shape or form.

    The issue concerning violence against women cannot be discussed in absolutes. In film as in life women are victims AND perpetrators of violence and how this should be shown on screen all depends on the character themselves whoever he or she may be. A director will think about this and with the actor/actress portray the violence accordingly.

    Personally - I'd rather see serious violence with warts and all in a true depiction as apposed to the frilly, pathetically artificial foray of violence against women as in films like Kill Bill 1 & 2.
    For me this kind of violence is more obscene as Tarantino uses a pornographically horrible act of violence purely to legitimize Uma Thurman's violence against others (mostly women) which of course is clearly wrong and confused.

    And if there is a way to depict violence against another human being on screen in a more "acceptable" way then as far as I'm concerned IT'S NOT VIOLENCE!

  • Comment number 20.

    Hear hear, Nootlin! Coup de Torchon is a fine film indeed, and turned me on to Thompson's work - it's a must see.

    Re Winterbottom, more pressing an issue for me is how can we get more people to watch Code 46?

  • Comment number 21.

    Stephen Frears adaptation of The Grifters was very good - three really powerful central performances.

    Also the Peckinpah 'Getaway' might be under-rated these days because it has been much copied but Steve McQueen was really great as Doc McCoy. Not seen the remake though.

    Definitely in favour of more Jim Thompson remakes...

  • Comment number 22.

    I meant adaptations, not remakes....

  • Comment number 23.

    When depicting violence, a film needs to have the strength of its convictions. Whether it be as fun in Resovior Dogs, funny in Pulp Fiction or abhorrent in Man Bites Dog or Irreversible. Films such as Man on Fire and Breaking the Waves, which depict violence as repulsive but somehow morally correct, i find inconsistent and more hard to watch than the toughest films like Martyrs and Last House on the Left. x

  • Comment number 24.

    Re:Violence in film (against man woman or child)... should always have a sense of consequence. In Diehard style action movies bad guys are killed and disappear like the endless streams of enemies in a videogame. Whether you approve of Tarantino's movies or not morally (which is in itself a diff issue) he does invoke a genuine sense of consequence. Each violent event always dramatically effects the plot (often in an interesting and surprising way.)

    Re:Thompson in films... always had a soft spot for The Grifters, the first Thompson based movie I saw, which got me into his books. (And John Cusac has rarely been better imho.) Though the period setting is somewhat confused. It has the same black humour but doesn't cop-out on the darkness of the characters or themes - come the closing titles, we are left in no doubt the the world is a corrupt and vile place.

  • Comment number 25.

    THE GETAWAY was a good film, but still not as grim as Thompson's book. Especially the final few chapters that were not filmed where the two main characters go to Mexico and their relationship and sanity deteriorates.

    I'd like to see another version of that book done where those scenes are included.

  • Comment number 26.

    @stanley orwin
    I watched Breaking the Waves last week and I don't agree that its violence is necessarily shown to be morally correct. The film is multi-layered: one layer showing what actually happens, one layer showing how the female protagonist Bess perceives what happens, and lastly a layer containing traces of the supernatural that appear to coincide thematically with what the female perceives, while being separate from it (in that it happens after her death).

    Von Trier deviously tempts the viewer into making a leap of faith and accepting Bess' delusions as real by connecting them with the "objective" traces of the supernatural, so that we believe her death served a purpose and was therefore morally correct. But it is still possible as a viewer to resist that temptation and maintain that the death of Bess and the recovery of her husband remain purely coincidental, and therefore that her death was, as it should be, senseless and immoral.

    It is this ambiguous trickery that makes von Trier such an great film maker, and at the same time so misunderstood and hated by the best of critics.

  • Comment number 27.

    Alina wrote:

    To be crude but honest, my criterion for judging whether a filmic depiction of violence against women is acceptable is the question of: "is it shot in such a way that many teenage boys would get an erection while watching it".

    I see. And who is going to determine that? Not sure if you were being serious

    Alina wrote: I think many of Brian De Palma's films (for example) have scenes where violence against women is shot in such a way that the violence is eroticised and the viewer is invited to identify with the perpetrator.

    I think a lot of times we are invited to identify with the perpetrator when the motive for the violence is revenge. I am not always sure if the director is condoning revenge violence or asking us to question ourselves. At the end of Hostel 2 there is an interesting switch where torturee becomes torturer which I think is meant to question your own response. In Hard candy we see the blurring of villain and victim role-reversal. In The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I actually found the revenge sequence harder to watch as I felt I was being asked to cheer it on whereas in the initial rape sequence I was supposed to be shocked (which I was). At the end of the same film the eponymous character does something else which may or may not have consequences (sorry that's my best attempt not to spoil) but again I think we are expected to at least condone, if not applaud, a violent action by a supposedly good character who is reacting to past injustices.
    It's like the Dirty Harry movies where Clint dispenses instant "justice" to "dirtbags". I am pretty sure the intention is that we are supposed to feel good about it, if not, at least OK. So ask yourself this question, well do ya, punks?

    Remember that not so long ago Dr. K claimed that vampire movies are all about sex. Well that's eroticised violence (or perhaps he would claim it is violent erotica). I think some of us questioned at the time whether this was (a) an outdated viewpoint since sex no longer has to be depicted as a cypher and (b) whether there isn't something wrong with this kind of association of sex and violence as apparently entertainment.

  • Comment number 28.

    Antimode's post above reminds me of one of the (many) problems I had with Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds:

    In the climactic scenes we are presented with numerous images of the Nazi's in the cinema laughing and applauding the gratuitous violence they are watching on screen - presumably this is Tarantino attempting to portray how vile and evil thy are. Yet, when it comes to the director's presentation of the Nazi's themselves being killed, Tarantino asks his audience to react in the same way as the Nazi's - to enjoy these people being killed.

    Also, I've been wondering if the shots of Hitler's face being torn apart by bullets would have been deemed acceptable if that fate had befallen someone who wasn't widely known as history's greatest monsters? Would that exact same death have got past the censors if it had happened to Diane Kruger's character?

    I guess I'm asking the same as antimode - is it acceptable to glamorize violence as long as the victims are clearly identified as 'baddies'?

  • Comment number 29.

    Sorry, that should read Nazis not Nazi's.

  • Comment number 30.

    I agree with Mr Winterbottom,I would be far more offend if a scene of brutal violence against women (or anyone for that matter) were done in a way that didn't make me want to turn away - although it does not necessarily need to be extremely graphic in its depiction in order to be effective.

    The best example of this that I can think of is the scene of domestic violence in 'Nil By Mouth' - the blows struck by Ray Winstones character are out of camera shot, but the sounds made by his wife (Kathy Burke) and the look of rage on his face made that scene harder for me to watch than any from Martyrs, Funny Games or the Saw series.

  • Comment number 31.

    I think Mr. Winterbottom's response to his critics is quite clever: asking them to explain what exactly it is they find so pleasurable about the violence in his movie, which he of course intended to be disgusting. In this passive aggressive way he's made his critics the sick ones for projecting their enjoyment back on him. I've heard a couple BBC reporters trying to squirm around his reasoning back to the position of self-righteousness. Still, I wish he'd drop the social amelioration approach, that he's just trying to portray the horribleness of violence on the screen as it really is instead of as a glamorized fantasy like most movies, blah, blah, blah--we've heard that one a million times. It's a silly argument. We're talking movies here, and movies are always fake; the violence, therefore, is always going to be stylized, an aesthetic act. If it weren't it wouldn't be art. Thompson, who came from my home state of Oklahoma (where the actress Jessica Alba got into trouble with the law while here filming, by the way), wrote cynical lurid thrillers to make money, because people enjoyed reading cynical lurid thrillers. The whole issue about violence toward women or anybody else on the screen's being wrong has so many annoying assumptions built into it--that those who use and consume extreme nastiness in movies are somehow warped, misogynistic, misanthropic, and just plain not nice--that it makes the head reel. I mean, after all, the history of drama is drenched in blood; we, sophisticated primates that we are, enjoy grisly fantasies even as we fear their implications. Great art allows us the excitement of blood as we question it. I think I'd argue that Thompson, at least in the couple of books of his I've read, isn't really a great writer.The plain hardboiled language is one note. And to my ear a quality of melodramatic sentimentality tends to creep up under the Freudianized cynicism.

    Anyway, what I really wish is that Mr. Winterbottom would be a little more of a provocateur; brazenly tell the press he'd made a vicious violent film that brutalizes women because he thinks that sort of thing is compelling and entertaining, and he just likes watching it, thought it might make some money, and that the naddering nabobs of negativism who criticize him for this, with the exception of Simon Mayo whom I adore, are just a bunch of mealy mouthed hypocrites who actually enjoy the violence and mayhem. They just do so by hiding behind a mask of social concern. If they don't like it, he should tell them to take him to court.

    The Thompson inspired film I really love is The Grifters. Stylistically it's a little blah, but the leading ladies in the film, especially Angelica Huston, are shockingly terrific.

  • Comment number 32.

    All violence should be abhorrent. Too much movie/TV violence is portrayed in a "user friendly" fashion. I personally consider films like "Henry portrait of a serial killer" and TV dramas along the lines of "Midsomer murders" on par with each other. They both require violence for entertainment.
    All violence, racism, sexism (any ism); should be portrayed for what it is and not glossed over. Therefore should violence be shown at all?

  • Comment number 33.

    @Rich Indeed
    I'd always assumed that it was Tarantino's point to equate the audience cheering on the Basterds to the Nazis cheering on the film. It was not an instance of hypocrisy.
    That said, I'm not entirely sure why you would particularly want to cheer on the Basterds - they were aptly named.

  • Comment number 34.

    Sex & the City 2 is more horrible for the female species than this film.

  • Comment number 35.

    I haven't seen the The Killer Inside Me, but doubtless I will (24 Hour Party People was superb).

    I have, however, seen Irréversible and yes, the underpass scene is truly traumatic to watch.

    When thinking about my contribution to this thread, I remembered when I was a child watching Hitchcock's Frenzy (arguably one of his best?), and how the rape and murder of Brenda has always haunted me (why on Earth did my parents let me watch it!). I replayed the scene today on YouTube – I almost wept.

    A key similarity with each of these scenes is the shocking … no, believable portrayal of absolute fear, terror and panic by each of the victims (Monica Bellucci and Barbara Leigh-Hunt), and it's precisely that kind of conviction of suffering that's absent in films like “A Hostel Nightmare Last Summer On Scream Street”, whose utter guff only serves to trivialise, and arguably make fetishistic, what is morally abhorrent to civilised society.

    Defining the “right” way of portraying violence towards women will prove to be as challenging for this century as it was for the last. I do, however, hold out hope that as society (very arguably!) becomes more tolerant and civilised, so it can more precisely define what is the “wrong” way.

    I look forward to seeing The Killer Inside Me, with the hope that the BBFC's judgement and certification is the right one.

  • Comment number 36.

    @27 antimode wrote:

    "Alina wrote:
    To be crude but honest, my criterion for judging whether a filmic depiction of violence against women is acceptable is the question of: "is it shot in such a way that many teenage boys would get an erection while watching it".
    "I see. And who is going to determine that? Not sure if you were being serious"

    I am being deadly serious. I believe that if a filmic depiction of violence against women induces an erection in a fair number of males then it raises the question of whether the film is potentially anti-social.

    I haven't seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (though I've read the book and I'm aware of your spoiler) but I've seen Hostel 2 and Hard Candy and it seems to me that most male critics become most uncomfortable when a female is portrayed as the revenger whereas they fail to remark on the outrage of movies where a male is the revenger(I'm not commenting on our good Dr but mainstream critics).

    "It's like the Dirty Harry movies where Clint dispenses instant "justice" to "dirtbags". I am pretty sure the intention is that we are supposed to feel good about it, if not, at least OK. So ask yourself this question, well do ya, punks?"

    Revenge themes will always be emotionally satisfying to audiences because every single human being on the planet believes that someone in their life deserves payback and movies satisfy that impulse. Yet there are some movies that depict that in a trite manner (Transformers) and some movies that depict that in a complex manner (Hard Candy).

    "Remember that not so long ago Dr. K claimed that vampire movies are all about sex. Well that's eroticised violence (or perhaps he would claim it is violent erotica). I think some of us questioned at the time whether this was (a) an outdated viewpoint since sex no longer has to be depicted as a cypher and (b) whether there isn't something wrong with this kind of association of sex and violence as apparently entertainment."

    You raise a herd of issues here. I think vampire movies are about the anxieties that plague human beings regarding projection and introjection. If I love someone will they consume me? If I love someone will I consume them? I think vampire movies tap into fundamental infantile issues about intimacy, and that includes sex.
    I'd put them in a very different category to any movie that depicts explicit violence against women.

    Hmmmm. This has made me wonder "what is the most gratuitous depiction of violence against women that I've ever seen depicted on film". Nothing springs directly to mind but I'll think on it.

  • Comment number 37.

    I would say that ANY violence in film, if done well, should be horrifying to the audience. Having seen Jessica Alba get her comeuppance for Good Luck Chuck in this movie, I too had to look away. I was reminded of Jared Leto in Fight Club, another excellent use of what you DON'T see being more effective. It also made the rest of the movie far more claustrophobic and menacing, knowing that literally anything could and can happen. I was reminded of American Psycho (the book, not the film) in terms of feel.

    As a film, Killer Inside Me has some great performances. I think it's tonally uncertain in places, especially towards the end, but should be congratulated for at least allowing Casey Affleck to plumb the depths of a disgusting character with absolute relish - I have yet to see him in anything where he is less than fantastic - and get a career best out of Kate Hudson.

  • Comment number 38.

    As a film nerd and Jim Thompson fan, the best adaptation I've ever seen is the criminally obscure Serie Noire (based on A Hell Of A Woman). It screened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art last year, and unfortunately it isn't on video or DVD in the states, probably more accessible over there. The setting has been transported to a sleazy 1970s-era Parisian suburb and features an astonishing lead performance by Patrick Dewaere, who committed suicide a few years after this film. It's hard not to look back at it and wonder if he was channeling some real-life suffering into the performance. It is definitely special, as he and director Alain Corneau perfectly capture the impulsive, internally decaying, self-destructive Thompson anti-hero.

    Serie Noire also features some strong violence towards women, but it isn't overly-emphasized or leery as it seems The Killer Inside Me may be guilty of (haven't seen it yet). It is sickening but functional, in terms of story and character. It isn't consciously appalling.

    A couple of sidenotes: Serie Noire played at Cannes in 1979, the same year Apocalypse Now, Days of Heaven, The Tin Drum, and Herzog's Woyzcek, so it's easy to see how it got lost in the shuffle. It also makes brilliant use of a certain obscure Duke Ellington song that will haunt you. For me, Serie Noire is up there with After Dark My Sweet (we're in agreement yet again, Dr. K, glad you gave it notice) and The Grifters as the best film adaptations of Jim Thompson.

  • Comment number 39.

    Let's face it. We're fascinated by the concept, or possibility, of violence. Always have been, always will. I think the Michael Haneke type attitude where the viewer is regarded as morally suspect for being attracted to violence in cinema is the worst kind of pretentious hypocrisy. Art allows us to explore these concepts--sometimes in a way that titillates, sometimes in a way that condemns. But before getting too high-minded about it, one should remember that our urge to see someone punished violently in a film derives more from our sense of justice than some beastial instinct. Or maybe the irony is that our desire for justice may be a more primitive emotion than we realize.

  • Comment number 40.


    Although do agree with you that violence towards women should not be glamorised in film. It should repulse the audience. But I do not understand why violence against women especially should have this moral code attached. In my opinion all films should show violence in a negative light. I know you disagree with this mark, with your love of gore and blood spatters. But why is glamorising the violence of man versus man (or woman versus woman) okay with you, but not man versus woman?

  • Comment number 41.


    The man vs. woman issue is something that I considered for some time as well and I ultimately concluded that there actually is a difference. It's for the same reason that you don't see movies that glorify groups of white people ganging up on a black man - there is already a stigma and a history attached to it. Misogyny is still an issue(and in some cultures even socially acceptable yet), so people are much more sensitive about anything that might suggest approval of violence against women. Men not so much because historically they have always been the stronger gender and so the field of play is a little more even.

    It's really, really difficult for me to answer Kermode's initial question concerning whether violence towards women should be revolting though because for me violence in film is really is a case-by-case basis where I ask myself what the film is trying to say with its portrayal and whether that statement meshes with the tone of scene. There's that whole context thing to consider and let's face it, if the woman in question is ze evil super-villainess of the piece then no I probably wouldn't be sad to see her go... though, I guess, in a serious drama I would argue in favor of repulsion and not glamorization as the rule of thumb for both genders while accepting that there is a chance of the occasional exception.

    Also: okay, since this keeps coming up I'll just be frank and say that I for one LIKE a bit of gratuitous violence once in a while. Granted that there is a time and place for that sort of thing and The Killer Inside Me certainly isn't it, but I do like a good splatter movie and sometimes I really do just want to sit down and watch a movie about monsters mauling people or horny teenagers dying ridiculously convoluted deaths. Partly because there is a twelve-year-old living in the back of my brain that still thinks that gross things are cool, partly because it's cathartic and partly because I am capable of acknowledging the differences between fiction and reality and it's comforting to be able to confront really horrible scenarios in the safety of my living room. I won't argue if somebody tells me that Gone with the Wind is a better film than Braindead, but guess which one I have seen more times (it's the one where Scarlett gets eaten by the zombies).

    So yeah. Terrible person here. Wrist slapped, moving on.

  • Comment number 42.

    "A great central performance from Jason Patric" Now that's a sentence I never thought I'd hear in my life

  • Comment number 43.

    I think any presentation of violence in film really comes down to the intentions of the filmmaker, the tone of the work and the subject matter. As long as it is done responsibly and in context there shouldn't really be a problem. Of course, what is deemed responsible will likely differ from person to person. A cited example in this thread, such as Irreversible, seemed to me to be nothing more than desperate attention-seeking; where the rape scene, at best, became a sort of spectacle, and at worst a marketing gimmick.

    Noé's statement, that the rape scene in Irreversible HAD to be prolonged in order to communicate the seriousness of the event, is patronising in the extreme. I would have thought that any grown-up person (and I assume this was the audience he made the film for) already understands what a terrible, life-destroying thing rape is without having to suffer through a fixed-shot, nine-minute dramatisation (complete with a gratuitous CGI erection shot). Of course, this is the same filmmaker who said at the Cannes festival screening that he had to shoot the scene with a fixed camera to stop him from getting aroused!

    On the other hand, the violence in Tarantino's work to me doesn't seem gratuitous at all. I don't think he lingers on violence half as much as some of his critics accuse him of, and in many cases will cut away from the violence, or play it in a long shot. He also shows the consequences of violence throughout, so although his attitude to the film might be somewhat cool or superficial, there's still the sense that violence will only ever lead to more of the same.

    Now, I haven't seen The Killer Inside Me yet, but having seen all of Winterbottom's previous work, I can't imagine the violence here is done for any other reason than to serve the story and motivate the viewer. He isn't a desperate provocateur or an attention-seeker; he's someone who consistently produces intelligent work that treats difficult subjects with an enormous amount sensitivity and respect.

  • Comment number 44.

    Truly creative film-makers can *suggest* what they want to portray on the screen without having to actually *show* it.
    Graphic violence is the easy way out.

  • Comment number 45.

    Totally agree Mark, most films with incredibly graphic sequences will disgust the viewer rather than attract.

    Gasper Noe's 'Irreversible' is an obvious choice but films such as 'Martyrs', and Robert Clay's dangerously brave 'The Great Ecstacy of Robert Carmichael' both depict violent acts against women in stomach-churning ways.

    The robbery sequence in 'Carmichael' with the glass bottle made me feel phsyically ill and I was pleased with my response because that's how I was intended to consume it.

  • Comment number 46.

    In terms of onscreen violence it entirely depends on the context and the intentions of the filmmaker. Winterbottom is clearly an intelligent man and whilst he must have known that this film would've caused such controversy i refuse to believe he made the film just to be so. Any violence, whether it be against men, women or children, is repugnant and in a film such as this it seems sensible only to portray it as such.

    Let us compare it to something like Rob Zombie's god awful remake of Halloween, in which there is a horrid scene of rape that is purely acted out in order to get a rise out of the killer. It is needless, repulsive and only there to be shocking. Now look at something like, as you mentioned, Irreversible. There were many parts of the film that were extremely difficult to sit through (the rape, the guy's head getting mashed with the fire extinguisher) but never at any point did the violence seem exploitative and that is the work of an intelligent filmmaker, a man that knows that such acts are repugnant so why glamourise them?

    I am yet to see The Killer Inside me (not even Harbour Lights, my local for smaller films such as these, is showing it) but i can only hope that, considering Winterbottom's talent (Note: of all his films i felt 9 Songs was somewhat infantile) that anything that has caused the outburst that it has, has at least been handled with a deft hand. Not necessarily sensitively but not in a glamourised light either.

    I'll wait and see.

  • Comment number 47.

    When considering this issue I would like to say that the violence against women in this film is explicit and awful, I was nearly in tears after seeing this violence, when considering the violence in this movie one has to consider the source material. The book itself portrays the violence against the female protaganists in an awful way,the book like the film has mysogynistic undertones and the film stays true to this. However I think the film had its strengths, but sadly not enough to elevate itself above the graphic violence. Ok, to justifty this, the female characters simply aren't believable as there is no understanding presented as to why the Jessica Alba character is attracted to a man who is violent. I think that with some subtle edits and additions to the script this could have been alluded to. This would have asked the question as to why some women stay with violent men. Also it is never explained as to why Casey Afleck is so motivated to kill those he loves, in the book the role of his father is prevalant in creating this monster, but in the film it seems that Winterbottom has got rid of this element from the book and wants to show that it is clearly his mother and young sado mashocistic girl that has created a mad man. I enjoyed the cameo from Bill Pullman but I thought Afleck was better in Jesse James and Gone Baby Gone but for the first time in my life I enjoyed a Kate Hudson performance! But I didn't think the violence served the movie well at all, as I thought about it for the remainder of the movie (first time I have agreed with Boyd Hilton too!) Great Soundtrack though. P.s thanks to the good doctor for putting his opinion forward on this topic!

  • Comment number 48.

    The vast majority of people abhor actual violence between individuals - particularly when sides are unevenly matched in power - as in many of these scenes of male violence against women.

    How would one go about writing a film in an attempt to convey the message that violence towards women was justified in any way? In these comments we have heard concerns about adding eroticism - humour - lingering on a scene - failing to portray consequences - portraying the victim as somehow deserving of punishment, or grateful.

    I suspect any film making a serious attempt will fail because it will quickly lose any mainstream audience in its own absurdity, or become a parody of itself.

    Any realistic portrayal of male violence towards a woman in a film is shocking to the modern mass audience regardless of how one portrays it. Short scenes, long scenes, erotic or prosaic, consequences or no, attempting to justify it before or after the event, it would seem to me not to matter.

    I think it is a risk for a film-maker to /try/ and make a realistic scene of male violence against a woman specifically horrific because it is unnecessary to get the message across to most people. It can alienate audiences, it distracts from other aspects of the film and, the more it is done in films, the more lengths other film-makers are driven to to compete in the "shock" stakes - driving desensitisation.

    I don't need help to find a realistic rape scene horrific. It already is. Stick to telling the story, say more with less, and the film will be better for it.

  • Comment number 49.

    I still haven't seen it yet...
    Is it a stylised movie (which is how it comes across in the trailer) or realistic?
    If it is stylised then how can the insertion of a hyper-realistic real-time murder be justified when it is juxtaposed with the rest of the movie.
    I should just bite the bullet and go and see it for myself...

  • Comment number 50.

    Uncle Balsamic - I agree. I don't think it's hypocrisy, what troubles me is the message: is Tarantino having a dig at us (the audience) by encouraging us to act like the Nazis we're supposed to despise, or is he trying to humanise the Nazis by saying that they're reacting just like we do? Either way, by relishing the violence visited upon them he is sending out a questionable message.

    This is a shame because usually he handles violence so well - something like Kill Bill is far more violent, but is less problematic because it's presented as an escapist and clearly fictional 'roaring rampage of revenge'. Yes, Inglorious takes the same 'revenge romp' attitude to its own subject, but when you are dealing with characters who actually existed in history, and particularly (not that this is the case with IB) when you start dealing with less cartoonish depictions of violence, I do think that you have to be far more considered in your presentation and the message you want the violence to convey.

  • Comment number 51.

    I haven't yet seen 'The Killer Inside Me' but that said I think it's s tep too far to say that all film violence against women must be repugnant. It follows that the film itself must be understood from the persepective of what the film-maker is trying to say.

    The films of Sam peckinpah are interesting for this, and I name him because 1) he made a controversial film with violence against women and 2) he's adapted a Jim Thompson novel. On (1) in Straw Dogs Susan George gets raped, and half way through appears to be enjoying it, I remember all to well the controversy this caused in the 1970s and still to this day (it being classed as a video nasty for many years). This controversy caused the film to be ignored for what its true narrative was about, and missed the pint that the husband(Dustin Hoffman) was the villian in this film. Anyway, point (2) Peckinpah's The Getaway satnds as an interesting adaptation of a Thompson novel, yes its been altered, but thats not the point, and coincidentally it involves violence aganst women and by women. Have a look at Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia, there's some interesting violnce perpetrated on a women there too.
    So, no repugnance is not essential.

  • Comment number 52.

    I'm not yet a Thompson connoisseur, but am about to start with his novel The Getaway. I think a big problem for people with the scene in this film, and maybe they haven't had time to fully realise it yet, is how well Casey Affleck plays it. Not just the way he methodically beats her, but his attitude that it's got to be done, and it's for the greater good. The baby-faced kid from Ocean's 11, Ben's kid bro, he blew me away in Gone Baby Gone. This film just re-inforced what that film told us. So long as he doesn't sell out and start taking the popcorn stuff Tom Cruise throws away, we could see something special; His generations Brando. Or at leasst Newman.

  • Comment number 53.

    I've gotta say I agree with you LSJShez, he is a fine actor...also great in "The Assasination of Jesse James..."

  • Comment number 54.

    What is a truly disturbing about the film is the ideas that lie behind the violence and the intimate relationship that Lou has with the audience. Perhaps I'm getting old but for the first time ever I think this film could have a very dangerous effect on viewers. This is a shame, because it is an absolutely fantastic piece of film making!

  • Comment number 55.

    This is probably out of place for me to comment since I haven't seen the film yet; however, Winterbottom is an estimable director, certainly. Indeed, one would say that it is his strength as a director that makes the issue worth considering.

    The question did send me back to watch the interview with Wilhelm Defoe about von Trier's Antichrist. Defoe insisted that the movie is not misogynistic and that charges that Anti-Christ is such a film (or has such a point of view) are simply a matter of perspective. That I have to say is complete rubbish. In von Trier's case, however, the issue is very complicated because Charlotte Gainesbourg's character is the primary misogynist and she goes insane. Thus, the perspective makes it hard to say for sure that the entire frame of the movie is shaped by that view towards women.

    I haven't yet seen Killer Inside Me, but I would say the issue for me will be the context of the violence, as it should be. But there is context and there is context, which is something that Winterbottom didn't address during the interview last week (or so) ago. His film exists in a cinematic culture in which there is a prevailing misogyny. Moreover, the world tends that way (is that actually in doubt)? The concern, then, is that showing the violence in all its brutality doesn't change a viewer's response. Does the audience really need to be shown that violence is brutal? What happens is that it allows people to become somewhat inured, perhaps. My question is, does empathy (the viewers') get rewarded somehow by the director? Or is that motive towards "realism" simply once again create more and more sophisticated demands for showing the reality of violence (and the violence of reality). If much of what is shown is Affleck's response (and the flinching is caused by what we think we see) doesn't that once again put the weight of identification with a sociopath rather than forming an empathic bond with the victims?

  • Comment number 56.

    Is it really so, that in order to understand how horrible violence against women is, we have to see it depicted in great detail?
    Ok, so what next? Paedophilia? A 15 minute scene with the rape of a 8 year old? So that we all finally understand that raping kids is horrible and wrong?
    Sorry, this is rubbish.
    All Winterbottom wanted was to do an exercise in style to show us all how clever he is, how artistic, how daring. But it is morally wrong. Not that anybody cares these days.

  • Comment number 57.

    I feel I am unable to comment on this film as I haven't seen it. However, as a result of the reviews I have seen and heard (including the Winterbottom interview on 5 Live), I don't want to see it.

    I of course have seen films with violence in them, but in this case, I don't think I want to see it - I really don't want to see anyone (male or female) beaten to death.

    Film is escapism in the most part for me (I do like documentaries and like to watch things that expand my view of the world and the things that people can and that we all may be able to experience), but sometimes it can be too much - with this film I think it may be the case, I don't want to escape to a world like this.

    I see that there was an earlier version starring Stacey Keach (Mike Hammer?) - was that as violent - is it viewed as being a 'better' film/adaptation?

  • Comment number 58.

    Of course violense toward women is repunant. But so is violence towards men. Sexual violance towards women is more frequent than sexual violence towards men but the latter does exist.

    If we keep on showing women as victims and men as either dangerous psychotic killers or big , strong heroes we get a warped world view. And lets face it no matter how repugnant a thing is someone, somewhere is going to get turned on by it.

    And I wonder why he cast women who do not look like "real"(aka non-famous) women but beauty queens. Where is the aspect of violence toward women who do not look perfect? Aren't the men in the audience supposed to be attracted to these women?

    The problem is if he has broken a taboo, crossed over a boundry. Other less moralistic filmmakers will copy him, and we the audience will eventually be desensitized(spelling?)

    There is also the problem with the filming. How did this affect the actress? If realism is to be achieved does she have to do things that will later be traumatic?

  • Comment number 59.

    There are many different views one could take in this debate, context is a key issue for me. Being a horror fan I have found myself largely desensitized to many depictions of violence in film be it against men or women but this purely comes down to the context in which it sits.

    Sin City depicts the murder and consumption of prostitutes by a cannibal killer, however in the context of its comic book style I barely notice or react to what should be a harrowing and traumatic concept, the same can be said by many slasher films where the killers are so far fetched and ridiculous I merely find myself laughing at the elaborate death scenes and gore (I am a well balanced individual by the way).

    For me violence in films becomes much harder to bear when there is drawn out psychological humiliation and physical torture Martyrs being a prime example of this, elements of believable or factual content within the narrative (shindler's List) and scenes of sexual abuse.

    On a separate note Alina I find the idea of judging the violence/sex debate with some kind of erectometer to be completely ludicrous. I hate to ruin your study but I think teenage boys get an erection at just about anything, there called hormones.

  • Comment number 60.

    Why it’s important to distinguish between genders when tackling the theme of violence. Why is violence towards women more horrific then violence towards men and is it not sexist to distinguish between the two?
    To weigh in on the debate about whether violence should be real or not I think that that completely depends upon the tone of the film. From what I gather the “Killer inside me” is set in the real world and as such the portrayal of the violence as real is a logical and justified artistic decision just as the portrayal of violence in a film like “Evil dead 2” as over –the-top and comic book like is equally logical and justified. A recent movie i feel is relevant in this argument is “kick-ass” which to me seemed to be going for a breezy fun all out entertainment comic book romp vibe but had these jarring moments of horrific visceral violence which really ruined the film for me.

  • Comment number 61.

    Jim Thompson (though uncredited) adapted Lionel White's novel Clean Break, providing the screenplay for Stanley Kubrick's first great picture, The Killing. The wiseguy dialogue, as well as the hilarious bickering between Elisha Cook Jr's character and his wife, provided some of the most memorable Thompson words ever played on screen.

  • Comment number 62.

    Just got back from a afternoon showing of The Killer Inside Me today, and while it left me with a lot of questions in my head (not least; did I actually enjoy it?), I think the media controversy over the misogyny within the film, like many have said already, is misfiring.

    The acts depicted by Lou are disgusting, repulsive and very hard to watch but at no time were they erotic or glamorous. I felt, and I know I wasn't the only person in the audience, very uncomfortable sitting through some of the scenes but that's what a good film should be able to do; provoke a reaction. I felt very uncomfortable watching many parts of Schindler's List and Requiem for a Dream but that's what they were trying to convey and are both great films.

    Dr K made a good point as to the camera positioning during the most extreme scene in the film, that it lingers far more on Lou - his fists and his face - rather than his victims. It reminded me a lot of Psycho. While obviously a lot more graphic than Hitchcock's film, Witterbottom has definitely gone for the notion that clever editing can make the mind think it's seen more than it has. This is also assisted by having some of the most brutally brilliant sound design I've heard in a long time. Every punch made you feel like it was you being socked in the jaw.

    My main problem with the film was that Lou was such a repugnant character that it was unpleasant to be chained to him in his restrictive narrative for the duration of the film. Every time he looked at someone with his beady eyes or spoke in his soft southern manner I thought something horrible was going to happen (a credit to Cassey Afflect's acting who, along with Sam Rockwell and Giovanni Ribisi, is one of the finest actors working today). My girlfriend always says that a protagonist must have some form of sympathy and humanity for a film to be worthwhile and I think this film proved her theory right. He was too devoid of anything but callousness and violence for the film to be great.

    I also disagree with Dr K's point on the music in the film and it drawing a thin line between comedy and horror. For me, there was not even a hint of humour in this film, musical or not. I suppose the closest it ever got to humour was when the tramp character was running away from Lou and the jingly country tune was accompanying his escape attempt. However even then the content of what was going on in the narrative was just too brutal for even the darkest smile to flicker across my face. It wasn't like No Country for Old Men or Fargo in which the black humour was mixed enticingly with the prolonged violence. It was just prolonged violence.

    Overall, I feel The Killer Inside Me is a brilliantly acted, edited and scored film, but, due to the nature of it's central character, not something I'm going to be in a hurry to watch again.

  • Comment number 63.

    (& picking up on the threads about Irreversible, raised by Mark, nicely covered by Amber and that others have commented upon too).

    Surely we are missing the point about violence, the idea that it must serve the plot of the film or it will be gratutous in neither here nor there. Sometimes violence can have an affective quality. In that sense it NEEDS to be gratuitous. The nine minute scene in Irreversible serves the plot, sure. However, that isnt enough. It is the affective quality that counts.

    Sure, Jasper, we KNOW that rape is nasty. Intellectually we can count ourselves civilised... But can we be made to FEEL it. To really feel it. To be bounced out of our secure knowledge and rethink what we think we already know. At one point during the scene someone appears at the far end of the tunnel, pauses, and walks away. That to me is one of the most devestating moments in cinema ever. It is a direct question to the audience... nope, its not even a question, its an accusation none of us can escape...

    So, forget 'serving the plot', cinema aint all about a neat story where all the points add up and can be ticked off against relevance. It is about thought, affect, seeing things differently. When it aint, it aint much cop...

    (and what's all this in the comments when people say 'I havent seen the film but I dont want to based upon what has been said' sounds like Khomeini's fatwa against Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses!!! Erm, I aint seen The Killer Inside Me yet... erm, so I wont comment just now... right, off to the Cornerhouse...)

  • Comment number 64.

    @dave: That's really nicely put.

    Film is, generally speaking, the experience of a story. Noe could have just given us two hours of black title cards with white text on them describing the film and still have adequately described what he was going for, but he works in a sound and visual medium and regarding that he chose what he felt would be the most effective way of getting his point across to his audience.

    That being said, I never really cared much for I Stand Alone.

  • Comment number 65.

    i think there is a difference between being viscerally repulsed and cognitively repulsed. I am absolutely repulsed by the shootings of last week. Had I been an eye witness, my repulsion would no doubt have been even stronger, but my ability to process it seriously effected (in a way that could be damaging for years to come, potentially leading to a lack of perspective).

    The violence against the Alba character at the start of this film had a very strong effect on me in such a way that I wasn't able to process it in time to re-engage with the rest of the film. Only now- 24 hrs later- am I able to re think about some of the film's other scenes. I guess what I'm saying is that in the tiemspan of the film, ot was overall a distraction. I don't need to to be graphically shown violence to feel repulsed by it, as long as the director has used tone and mood wisely.

    My other point is that the film was all very styalised: well lit, shot, choreographed etc- including the graphic violence. In that sense it wasn't realistic and gritty, just extremely disturbing. I think this was the objective- not to show the viewer that violence is horrible, but that the character's motive and pleasure are conflicted and disturbing, hence the jarring 'light hearted' musical segments frequently played. Having had a day to ponder it, I think the film had more merits than I initially felt. Still I think I'd rather not see it again just to make sure...

  • Comment number 66.

    Haven't seen this yet (and not sure I want to), but the debate is really interesting and I wondered what people thought about this aspect...

    I thought Boyd Hilton made two really interesting observations on Friday (I don't often agree with Hilton either):

    1. The appalling nature of the violence against women has clearly overshadowed the rest of the film. Dr. K recognises it's a problem if people aren't seeing those scenes in the context of the whole work, and Hilton suggests this is an aesthetic (rather than a moral) failing of the film. If a scene or scenes in a film dominate to the extent that one loses any sense of proportion when remembering, analysing or talking about a movie as a whole, that suggests the work is unbalanced, and to that extent aesthetically flawed.

    2. Winterbottom can't have it both ways. Either:

    (a) he was surprised audiences found the scenes of violence against women so appalling or
    (b) he deliberately set out to make those scenes really appalling because he thought that was the most 'moral' approach.

    There's a clear inconsistency in his asserting both (a) and (b) in interviews, and this is worries me most of all because the main source of consolation for people who like the film seems to be that Winterbottom had the best moral (or at least purely aesthetic) intentions. This inconsistency raises the prospect that he's being disingenuous, which could rob fans of that comfort.

  • Comment number 67.

    @dave d wrote:
    "(and what's all this in the comments when people say 'I havent seen the film but I dont want to based upon what has been said' sounds like Khomeini's fatwa against Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses!!! Erm, I aint seen The Killer Inside Me yet... erm, so I wont comment just now... right, off to the Cornerhouse...)"

    I think that is a bit of an extreme comparison don't you? Nobody is baying for blood here...we're all just having a civilised discussion about the nature of violence in movies and how we feel about it. Bear in mind many critics that have seen "The Killer Inside Me" have made some of these negative points; we are all just mulling over what everyone has to say, including your very own interesting thoughts about it.

  • Comment number 68.

    This must have been how it felt in 1960 to be told that a story was too obscene and not "a book you would wish your wife or servants to read". So of course I just had to see this and make my own mind up.

    Media puritans had chattered endlessly rehashing the same cliches about misogyny and the unacceptable sexualisation of violence. The BBFC helpfully gave this film an (18) certificate warning me but allowing the option to decide for ourselves.

    Cineworld helpfully posted a foyer notice warning this film depicted extreme violence. However their toilet didn't ask we wash our hands and the cinema exit doors skipped the reminder to be careful on the way home.

    After such high expectations of my possible outrage that women had been wronged, I left underwhelmed but not hailing the righteous maelstrom of the new puritans.

    Meanwhile back in the real world Charles Cox had died after a single vicious punch outside Floridita, in Wardour Street. That was man-on-man violence, different in outcome to the woman-on-woman violence you can now enjoy in

  • Comment number 69.

    Just got back from seeing this. Have mixed emotions about it:

    1. I would agree that the film is overpowered by the shocking acts of violence - short and small in number though they are. It's definitely the image you take away from it.

    2. More troubling though was the inter-meshing of these scenes with the eroticism of the love scenes. Regardless of what Winterbottom claims, it definitely felt like the two were supposed to be conflated...

    3. Maybe I'm reading it wrongly, but plot-wise there appeared to be a number of moments of what the website TV Tropes would call "Fridge Logic" - a scene which "hits you after you've gone home and start pulling cold chicken out of the icebox" i.e. internal inconsistencies which you don't notice so much at the time, but become apparent afterwards.

    Having said that, the storyline gripped, the film looked very stylish and authentic, the music was inspired and the leads were all excellent. Casey Affleck in particular stands out for praise, although I suspect he's now condemned himself to being typecast as the smiling sociopath forever - it will be difficult for him to extricate himself from the role.

  • Comment number 70.

    @ MargeGunderson

    Marge, cool challenge... conceded! Have to admit to going over the top on that one, wasn’t completely serious tho ;-)

    My general point was (as Paul - 68 - hints at in his nicely ironic post) not seeing the film because of what others have said but at the same time having a view on the issues raised is rather limiting... but I am coming from a position that cinema aint just entertainment, rather a reflection / exploration of history, society, philosophical problems...

    Exmaple... at the begining of a Die Hard movie 200 people die in a plane crash. This sets up the justification for the plot. We are with the hero as he puts it to those terrorists... we (I) love it! That is violence justified by the story, which makes us feel as if it is justified. Trouble is, we dont feel it. Somehow it is easier to watch. When a filmmaker does want us to feel violence, to confront violence, perhaps we have a wee bit of a duty to do so, to check out the film... perhaps violence unjustified by the plot, unnecessary violence, is - paradoxically - the most most ethical...

    ... and thanks for the kind comments, and right back at you...

    I still aint seen the film yet... hopefully tonight...

  • Comment number 71.

    This is a classic example of hype overload and as such when you actually see the scene in question, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. Shocking? A little bit but Nil By Mouth and any of the Rocky films sprang to mind, especially when Casey Affleck hit someone so hard that he lifted them off their feet and across a room. Don't you just love movies? Apparently Jessica Biel has trouble getting a boyfriend too.

    With that out the way I thought it was a good film offering the viewer a chance to make up their own mind about Ford's state of mind. Was he always a like this or just driven to extremes because of the situations he found himself in.

  • Comment number 72.

    @dave d
    I totally take your point, it is hard to make a full and enilghtened judgement on something you haven't seen. Until I get to see it I have put down some thoughts of my own based on what I have read or heard from people who have seen it.
    I don't think anyone posting on this blog is 'anti' the movie at all...I will probably go and see it myself or get it out on dvd if I miss it. I rate Casey Affleck as an actor and will always be interested in anything he performs in.
    The violence in a movie like Die Hard is almost incidental even though there is copious amounts of it, so cartoony that you don't really take it in; it doesn't purport to be anything else.
    I suppose in the case of "The Killer Inside Me" we are being asked to witness something that is senseless, Lou Ford has no motive for commiting these murders. We (as normal well adjusted folk) will always find it harder to watch something like this rather than the violence in a movie like Die Hard, which as you mentioned is 'dubiously' justified in some way.
    Nobody in their right mind would identify with a character like Lou Ford and who would want to. No amount of depictions of realistic violence perpetrated by psychopathic serial killers will ever make me see that point of view. Which brings into question the need to show the violence in its entirity in the first place.

  • Comment number 73.

    I did want to say a bit more but had to log out for a while. Just wanted to add that supposedly "justifying" violence within a plot line doesn't always work either. I watched the truly awful Law Abiding Citizen the other day and was absolutely sickened by the violence perpetrated by all the characters, including the one we were supposed to identify with.

  • Comment number 74.

    I don't mind any scenes of violence even if they do glorify the act itself if that is the honest point of view of the writer They usually don't succeed in portraying evilness in the act because they show us screaming victims instead of blank eyes and numbness which is the realistic reaction of any violent act I want to see though more films who either turn the female victim as the avenger or films with realistic women as villans who act brutally themselves Because yes films do shape the way we think and it is time to counterbalance the women profile even if it not completely true As a women i am bored to be profiled as victims

  • Comment number 75.

    Just out of interest...I watched 'The White Ribbon' last night, in which I think I saw only one punch and a kick, all the other violence was off screen with only the results shown; yet somehow the horror and distastefulness of it was conveyed completely.

  • Comment number 76.

    Saw The Killer Inside Me last night. Have to say, I thought it was a wonderful film, maybe even one of Winterbottom's best (up, there with Jude, 24 Hour Party People and In This World).

    Anyhow, the violence... as that is what we have all be talking about! It is indeed (@ MargeGunderson, as you said) senseless. The interesting point to me was that the women are never beaten in-and-for-themselves, but always on behalf of another, in both cases a man. What is left unclear is if it is the killing of the men that is an excuse to beat the women, or if the beating of the women is an excuse to kill the men.

    Winterbottom leaves this open... and I think that is where the power of the film lies. While all the later killings are motivated to cover up former ones, the intial violence is essentially unmotivated, or at least the motivation is left so amorphous it is undecidable...

    Some more thoughts...

    In the end, what I came away with was the feeling that this was a film about mysogeny, not a mysogenist film. Crucially, it was a film about the mysogny of a man who essentially loved the women he attacked.

  • Comment number 77.

    Nice blog site dave d...I'm afraid I didn't understand all your stuff about ellipses though!!! Too deep for me.

    From your description of the plot it does sound very much like a film about a mysogynist. I do think that you are trying too hard to understand Lou's character though. However much we as an audience we crave an explanation, a reason for these horrific acts, we will never truly understand it. It clearly sounds like Lou has a lot of issues regarding his father, but that is not excuse enough.

    Is that first image on your site a genuine poster for the movie? All the posters I have seen have been pretty inconspicuous, not giving any idea about the movies content. However that picture on your site looks a lot like a classic pulp fiction cover with the image of a half dressed woman.
    The plot outline that you have written has made me doubtful about going to see it now. It seems that Jessica Alba's character wants to be beaten, wants to be hurt by Lou, wants him to kill her, which is such a dubious line to tread. Does she fight back? Does she beg for him to stop? Is Winterbottom/Thompson suggesting that part of her wants to be treated in this way?
    The description you gave of the initial whipping scene smacks of classic male fantasy to me. This all fits in with the root material of the pulp novel; these were always written to titilate and excite, drawing in readers with their lurid covers of half dressed women in peril.
    It also appears that Lou is the only character in the movie that has any depth. The women are ornamental, there to be used, abused and eventually killed. Do they have any depth of their own? Do they talk in a realistic way? Do we have a chance to get to know them before they are brushed aside?

  • Comment number 78.

    (Thanks for the feedback on ths site... its appreciated)

    Regarding the poster, it is one that came up on google images... have to say I didnt think any deeper on it than it featured more of the characters in the film... and represented the area I wanted to discuss... You are right tho, it has a more noirish feel than the the white poster, which has a more clinical, psychotic feel to it... given what I say below in response to your questions... perhaps the white poster would have been a better way to go!

    Regarding Joyce, I have have heard/read Alba in interview somewhere saying exactly what you said, the chararcter wants to be hurt. Yikees. Have to admit I didnt get that from the movie, rather it came across as her not being able to defend herself because she cant comprehend what the man she loves is doing (and same with Amy later).

    Your other points all pan out. Classic male fantasy of whipping - check... (tho I am sure not all men fantasise on this, or I would hope...) Lou as only well drawn character - check (tho of course tempered by the fact you see him as he sees himself).... ornamental women - check (rarely out of bed or dressed)... the women are there to be used, anused and killed - check (exactly the point I made in the blog)... Do they have any depth of their own? Nope... Do they talk in a realsitic way? Hmmmmmmm... Do we have a chance to get to know them before thay are brushed (or beaten) aside? Yeah, sure, as sexual objects!

    All your fears of the film are confirmed, I am afraid... Seems hard for me to defend it? Erm, yeah... All I can say is that politically (gender politically) it gets around all these - and other - problems by being 'with' Lou. You never see anything other than through Lou's eyes (this was the restraint I was mentioning). It is a portrait of a characters view of the world. Politically, however, I know how weak that sounds...

    Thanks for the back and forth on this Marge, I have really enjoyed it... see you at another film sometime?!

  • Comment number 79.

    It seems as if violence is OK if Tarantino et al are doing it as 'entertainment' - but when a film such as this shows violence in a much more realistic, grim and unglamorous way, it becomes shocking. It seems a strange state of affairs when films which show the real consequences of violence get more flak than ones which show murder as some sort of pleasure enhancing SFX. The Killer in Me takes the right approach, I have more problem with films like Inglorious Basterds which invite you to laugh and cheer at the horror.

  • Comment number 80.

    Hey dave d thanks for replying to my questions about the movie. I too have enjoyed this discussion. I may give The Killer Inside Me a miss for now and perhaps catch it on dvd later.
    However I do totally understand your theory that the whole movie is seen from Lou's twisted point of view (which goes some way to explaining the way the murders are portrayed. I'm just not sure I want to see a psycopathic mysogynistic sociopath's view of life!!! Equally I would not want to prevent others from viewing it either!
    C'est la vie

  • Comment number 81.

    @80 -Marge

    You do really need to see the film to make any sort of perceptive comment about it. If you don't want to see it, that's OK - but you can't really add that much to the discussion of it then.

    Let us not forget, however disturbing the film is - it's fiction. Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson are perfectly fine, no-one was harmed. Neither was the film a biopic of a real person, which might have made it more troublesome. There's a lot of very real violence out there in the real world which is probably worth more of our concern and outrage.

  • Comment number 82.

    Fair point Bloofs, I'm not "outraged" about it though, just thinking and pondering on the subject...offering another point of view...I'm not Mary Whitehouse if that's what you are suggesting! ;)

  • Comment number 83.

    Oh, and thanks for pointing out that the movie is fiction...I wouldn't have realised that on my own! ;)

  • Comment number 84.

    @ Marge

    Not suggesting you in particular were outraged, rather I was referring to the whole furore.

    As for pointing out it was fiction, again this was addressed to the wider debate. Calm down everyone, it didn't really happen.

    As I say, I think someone who has not seen the film, or read the book or watched the play etc can only offer limited (some would say nonexistent but I don't agree) value in discussing it.

  • Comment number 85.

    I stuck with Lars von Trier for as long as I could mentally stand it. The limit was hit with a screeching halt at Manderlay. Fine, his depiction of women is always 'complex', yes, Dancer in the Dark is possibly one of the best films to come out of the last ten years and one has to respect Lauren Bacall for working with him more than once (a trooper that woman).

    Even though the depiction of physical violence in Manderlay isn't graphic, at least in memory it wasn't particularly grim, I could not get rid of the feeling that the oppressing misogynistic attitude of the film was not an exploration of such an environment rather some sort of punishment for women who chose to watch that film. And I am not even going to start with the racism aspect of it either. Strange that this feeling came at that particular film, by far worse things happened to his female characters in the earlier ones and this is not one of his better film, but I left the cinema in absolute fury.

    That feeling is by far worse than most depiction of graphic violence in films, when the viewer feels somehow not only physically ill but mentally violated, and seemingly to the great pleasure of the prankster-visionary-director. And I still have not managed to forgive him, nor allowed myself to see more of his films. Just can't do it any more. Not saying that I will never take a gander at Anti-Christ but that won't be in the near future.

    ps. The Grifters was a treasure that I accidentally discovered years ago, Anjelica Huston tore that film up with her stilettos. Golden.

  • Comment number 86.

    Dr K, I really enjoyed the double page article on The Killer Inside Me in The New Review. It was particularly interesting to read the thoughts of Romola Garai, providing her views on the movie as a woman and an actress.
    Also reading the smaller pieces from the critics that liked it and those that didn't; I would like to point out that not a single person in the article wrote that it should not have been made or should be banned. No one condones censorship or a nanny state including myself. However, everyone is entitled to an opinion, even if it is negative one.

    @Bloofs I will check the movie out when it comes out on dvd as it is no longer in any of my local cinemas. I just found this to be a very interesting discussion and wanted to contribute, genuine apologies if I offended your sensibilities.

  • Comment number 87.

    It never ceases to stun how Hollywood always manages to get away with blatant, hideous misogyny in the form of romantic comedies (well discussed in reference to Dr. K's criticism on Bride Wars). Lo' and behold: Kate Hudson is at it again in her upcoming movie Something Borrowed (another film about the wonders of marriage). This is a little piece of dialogue the on-line magazine Jezebel managed to get their hands on:

    "With that, the girl walks off. Darcy grins, then turns back to Rachel.

    Okay, so where were we...


    We'll still be best friends, right?

    Of course!

    Cross your heart, hope to get fat?

    Rachel nods, smiling. And off the two... best friends forever."

    Utter, utter bile. So thirty is apparently the new forty. We'll get more 'pleasure' out of seeing white, wealthy and beautiful people moan about their problems. And being fat is clearly the most hideous sin a woman can ever commit. This is possibly just as insidious as graphic violence against women in cinema as this tries to camouflage itself as being about 'women's issues' while the torture porn films are at least blatant and straight to the point (not that I am condoning it).

  • Comment number 88.

    @86 Marge

    You didn't offend my sensibilities, but I wanted to point out that someone who hasn't seen a film can only offer limited merit to any discussion.

    Don't want to get drawn into a specific debate with you because apart from that one point, the rest of my points were addressed to the wider conversation.


  • Comment number 89.


    Surely Kate Hudson is 30, or close to it in real life, though?

  • Comment number 90.

    Since the games (particularly Brazil v Portugal) were so dire yesterday I watched this yesterday on cable TV. Now, I don't know if the version I watched was in any way censored for TV. I don't have any way of knowing.
    There were a couple of "suicides" that took place off camera that I don't know whether were part of the film or not, but otherwise I am assuming what I saw was the cinema version.

    I am not going to give a spoiler warning because I think it is hard to discuss this if you allow yourself to be hampered by trying not to give out plot details. You have been warned.

    Now the first thing that is clear is that the story is told from the point of view of the protagonist (a sociopath). There are no scenes that I can think of where Casey Affleck was not present. For example when the police are closing in on Affleck's house we see them only as glimpsed through the windows of the house. Also given the narration and what happens at the end of the movie there is no way this is taking place in the past. What is happening is in the present and is taking place in the mind of Affleck's character (only).

    We could argue whether Affleck's character besides being a sociopath, is a misogynist. There are points where the character shows affection to the female characters and appears to show regret about his actions (well I said we could argue about that). When the violence and killing is done, it is not done for sexual gratification or anger it is done purely as a matter of pragmatism and with complete detachment.

    When I watched this first (since I watched this on TV I was able to go back and watch this again), I thought it was difficult to believe the female characters which seemed to accept the violence and even enjoy it. Then there was what I thought was a ridiculous exchange where the two characters said "I love you" to each other while Affleck was killing Alba's character who does not fight back. This only makes sense if you accept that the view we are seeing takes place from inside the mind of Affleck. The women are shown as cartoon characters with no depth and appear to be little more than sex objects but again this is because it is Affleck's viewpoint.

    The camera is only a camera and offers no commentary of its own. But the question I have about that is, does depicting a story like this from the viewpoint of a killer mean that the filmmaker can say "Well, look it's not me, it's him. The apparent glorification of violence and treating of female characters as pure sex objects is not me. It's him". Can Winterbottam completely wash his hands of the fact that some people watching this might feel a sense of exhilaration from the violence and the fact that the women are shown to be accepting of what is happening to them (even though that is not really what would be happening from an objective viewpoint). If the director wants to show that viewpoint, and that viewpoint alone, with no commentary, doesn't he become responsible for and take ownership of that viewpoint?

    The violence while graphic, and shocking because of the subject is nothing very extreme. But one thing it isn't is real. So I reject the idea that the director is showing a scene where he is trying to make it as repulsive for the viewer as possible and if that is what he said then he is being disingenuous about that. If he wanted to do that he would show the full horror of the violence with the women fighting back and their anguish, terror and pain which of course he does not show and cannot show from Affleck's viewpoint. You can still be repulsed by what you see and I did flinch and want to look away during the first murder but there is a sense that the violence is being made acceptable because the violence is acceptable to Affleck.

    Yes these scenes do dominate the movie and detract from the performance by Affleck. But really there is not much to the story and I come away thinking, OK what was the point of that? We are being taken inside the mind of a sociopath who has very little mind at all.

    Stylistically the film is well made. I would generally agree that the music is good. There is a period sound track as well as incidental music and some operatic music as apparently the main character liked opera. As far as the humour is concerned, I would say if the chase sequence where Affleck chases the blackmailer with a knife is supposed to be funny, that's a mis-fire because from within Affleck's mind even a sociopath would not be playing a soundtrack that was like a scene out of Benny Hill at that point.

  • Comment number 91.

    On one of the recent (July?) shows, Mark was discussing how a listener had pointed out that, as awful as it may be, Sex and the City 2 was one of the few movies that was centered around a group of female protagonists.

    He then went on to mention a list of questions on some sort of scale or criteria (I think it was something like "The Bechtel ________") for considering how X or Y film treats women.

    It's driving me up the wall that I can't recall the name of the person who he mentioned formulated the criteria; can anyone please remind me exactly what it was?

    What I DO recall is that the criteria were along these lines:

    - Are there 2 women characters who have names?
    - Do they talk to each other?
    - Do they talk to each other about something other than the men in their lives?

    If anyone knows the reference, or can point me to which show it was where Mark discussed this, I'd really appreciate it.

    can recall the name

  • Comment number 92.

  • Comment number 93.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


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