Here’s the movie Jen can’t stop thinking about lately:
This week I finally saw The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei. I was prepared for good performances, and I agree with much of the critical praise. From the opening, we as spectators are aligned with Rourke’s Randy “the Ram’s” point of view. Throughout the film the camera travels behind him, linking his life “on stage” in the ring to his “real” life at work and with other people. It is an very touching film, and like another film that really impressed me this year, Frozen River, it highlights people who seem very familiar to me.
But the thing I can’t stop thinking about is the use of violence in this film and consequently, in film in general. (This is related to the discussion Breinne and I had following my first post in this blog). Is violence ever really permissible? I understand the violence exists. I understand the truth of it, and how it is a vital part of The Ram’s character and life. I get that. But as he is being smashed to pieces in the ring, we’re no longer aligned with him, we’re aligned with the spectators in the arena. And that’s truthful storytelling, yes. But even films that pointedly make use of violence, like the Bourne films, or The Untouchables, Bonny and Clyde, or even Saving Private Ryan are still exposure to violence. Is there any good excuse to expose people to graphic violence? Yes, we understand their pain, but is this exposure ever necessary? Would those who lived through violence, like veterans of the Normandy invasion, choose to go through it again, or put someone else through the experience?
I agree that the horrors of war, or in The Ram’s case, the horrors of an inescapeapble life filled with violence are real, and true. They should not be denied. Our culture is violent, and debates rage about the effects of violence in the media. The implimentation of the ratings system shows American culture seems to have a lower tolerance for graphic sex than graphic violence. Undoubtedly for “blockbusters” (and I use the term loosely . . .) like Wolverine are gory spectacle. They’re the Roman Coliseum’s fights, updated for the modern empire. But as we watch The Ram get smashed with glass or body slammed, we’re not just exposing the spectacle, we’re participating in it. Shouldn’t we do our best to save all people from experiencing violence? And yet, violence is a part of our lives. To deny the pain that some go through is to turn your back on them.
I still can’t reconcile this issue, and I’m okay with that. The Wrestler made me wrestle with it, and I’ll wrestle still.