Use of violence, aestheticization of violence or omission of violence? We just can’t escape this argument as movies consistently continue to evolve over a period of time showing an even more radical relationship with violence when it comes to cinematic expression. Cinema history confirms the notion that violence is indeed the beloved muse of this art form and directors from all over the world are attracted to this aspect of life in varying degrees. Just by having a look at some of the greatest films made by some of greatest filmmakers; from Howard Hawks to Quentin Tarantino, from Stanley Kubrick to Martin Scorsese and from Akira Kurosawa to Ken Loach, we know that their body of work display violence as a significant element in their artistic palette.
Such a presence of violence in both art and the social fabric around us sets up the perfect platform for us to wonder, better to say more responsibly ‘enquire’ the universe of violence and how it permeates through various channels in today’s digital world. Talking of the social factors responsible for the origin and effect of it is however another ‘3D angle’.
To start with, examining violence through the lens of movies (occasionally art) leads us to the quick realization in no time that it is bound to get aestheticized in any form of art, hence cinema is no exception. So it all boils down to the question of its aesthetic aspect when an artist chooses to use it in his or her work. A practical example can be cited through two well-known films such as KillBill (Vol 1 and vol 2) and Gangs of Wasseypur (Part 1 and 2). Tarantino and Kashyap both have used it significantly in a fashion which imparts the screen with a certain visual sensibility and a movie experience which is both cerebral and visceral in nature. In the first case, we realize that what the audience is watching on screen is only fictional in nature (Kill Bill) and there is no point in watching Kill Bill, where the audience is not aware that they are not watching a movie. While in Gangs of Wasseypur, we know that what is happening onscreen is the artistic exaggeration of real-time events.
Two approaches, two different results but one common theme, “aestheticization of violence”. The word can be simply described as the ‘artistic usage pertaining to one’s own approach’. The moment we arrive at the conclusion that there is certainly a personalized/exaggerated usage of violence, it gives rise to another debate. Audience and film critics have argued either for or against the inclusion of violence in cinema. On one hand, are those who say that the increasing usage of this element desensitizes us to its effect, hence is a bad influence and must be discouraged. On the other hand, some say that watching violence onscreen is a comforting and a relieving experience as is it gives an outlet to the anti-social impulses of pysche. In that sense, it is beneficial and cathartic to us.
Certainly the friction between these two polarized views is responsible for the enthusiastic manner in which we respond to movies. It is central to its life and probably gives the manic energy and vast possibilities of its artistic usage in movies. One also feels that with violence one needs to take a responsible stance when it comes to cinema but then another question arises; what is being responsible? Probably looking at the world around us will provide us with an answer to that… probably. What is certain is that we’re bound to witness violence in the movies in future and hence the almost universal presence cannot be denied whenever a writer writes a story, director decides to make the movie and the actors prepare to bring it to life. Make believe, who knows!