Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Violence in Art and Violence in the Passion

I haven’t seen The Passion yet. My wife & I avoided the first week because we generally avoid long lines at movies. We’re still hesitating, though, because the reviews say the movie is so violent. Our doubts reminded me, however, of this excellent posting by Spencer Warren on the Claremont Institute’s website.

The short of it--really good movie directors appreciate that the way to impress a movie audience is not to show the violence on the screen, but instead to suggest it off-screen in a way that makes the audience’s imagination do more of the work. This rule of thumb stems from a classical understanding of art, and in particular a classical understanding of the objects and limitations of visual art. If Warren (and the classics) are right, The Passion may suffer on an artistic level. But we’ll have to go see the movie to judge for ourselves.

Discussions - 2 Comments

That shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho comes to mind. I think that was the most blood Hitch ever used in all his movies put together. Still, all the violence, aside from Janet Leigh’s scream, was left to the imagination. The true master never insults his audience, and Hitch never did. Later, a new generation of directors would think differently about their audience, of course, and there would be no end to the bloodletting on the screen...

Still, scenes like Omaha Beach in Saving Private Ryan and Gibson’s Christ serve a higher purpose, I think. Only by seeing what hell the business of war really is does one likewise appreciate peace and the efforts undertaken to keep it. And Jesus surely went through hell in order to secure his right to wear the crown as the true Prince of Peace.

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