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This post is part of the ‘Morality Bites’ blogathon started by Filmplicity and Dirty With Class. A list of other articles can be found here and here.
At Paragraph Film Reviews we firmly believe that the filmmaker / auteur / director should have the artistic freedom to put whatever he or she likes into the movie. And by ‘whatever’ I would include nasty stuff like abduction, rape, butchery, incest, murder, nudity, sex, violence, cannibalism, gore… I’m not endorsing (all of!) these acts, but when they’re used correctly, they can push almost any story on to – and even beyond – the next level. A quick run-through a mental list of my favourite films, and almost everything mentioned appears in at least one of them; although I’m not sure what that says about me…
Where the morality issue lies is the use (/context) of these elements. The nasty stuff listed above has appeared in thousands of films, but for plenty different reasons, a lot of which I believe aren’t acceptable justifiable. if it enhances the story, a character or setting sufficiently then I don’t see the problem – and it’s the role of the BBFC / MPAA etc to restrict the audience appropriately. However, if nasty elements are thrown in there purely for shock, gratuity, sexing/hyping the film up a little or just to make the trailer look better, then it’s nothing more than a tasteless insult to the viewer. That my friends, is the moral line that I feel filmmakers need to stay on the right side of, and stray from far too readily these days.
For every film that leverages ‘immoral’ content to its advantage (OldBoy, Dragon Tattoo, Lilja-4-Ever, Goodfellas, Bittersweet Life, Inglourious Basterds, Hard Candy, Killer Inside Me…) hundreds more will simply throw in grizzly bits stuff for all the wrong reasons. I would also apply this position to books, television, paintings, or anything else under the wider umbrella of ‘art’, because what good is any form of art when big brother starts censoring parts?
/Paul