Heads Up, Ears Down

This blog accurately identifies depictions of violence and cruelty toward animals in films. The purpose is to provide viewers with a reliable guide so that such depictions do not come as unwelcome surprises. Films will be accurately notated, providing a time cue for each incident along with a concise description of the scene and perhaps relevant context surrounding the incident. In order to serve as a useful reference tool, films having no depictions of violence to animals will be included, with an indication that there are no such scenes. This is confirmation that the films have been watched with the stated purpose in mind.

Note that the word depictions figures prominently in the objective. It is a travesty that discussions about cruelty in film usually are derailed by the largely unrelated assertion that no animals really were hurt (true only in some films, dependent upon many factors), and that all this concern is just over a simulation. Not the point, whether true or false. We do not smugly dismiss depictions of five-year-olds being raped because those scenes are only simulations. No, we are appalled that such images are even staged, and we are appropriately horrified that the notion now has been planted into the minds of the weak and cruel.

Depictions of violence or harm to animals are assessed in keeping with our dominant culture, with physical abuse, harmful neglect, and similar mistreatment serving as a base line. This blog does not address extended issues of animal welfare, and as such does not identify scenes of people eating meat or mules pulling plows. The goal is to itemize images that might cause a disturbance in a compassionate household.

These notes provide a heads-up but do not necessarily discourage watching a film because of depicted cruelty. Consuming a piece of art does not make you a supporter of the ideas presented. Your ethical self is created by your public rhetoric and your private actions, not by your willingness to sit through a filmed act of violence.

Pearls of the Deep

Pearls of the Deep (Perlicky na dne). Jiří Menzel, Jan Němec, Evald Schorm, Věra Chytilová, Jaromil Jireš, 1966.
Edition screened: Included in Criterion Eclipse Series 32: Pearls of the Czech New Wave 4-DVD set, released 2012. Czech language with English  subtitles. Runtime approximately 107 minutes.

Summary: One of the five segments shows various stages of hide tanning.

The House of Joy is set in the home of a tanner, with numerous images of goat and rabbit skins in various stages of skinning and curing 40:12-43:20, and again 57:19-58:37. This last sequence ends with the tanner transporting a large dead dog on his bicycle, with a leashed small dog ominously coming along as well. (The individual films run as one continuous presentation, with the 23-minute The House of Joy running 36:50-59:29.)

This omnibus presentation includes a 2-minute introduction and five short films based on stories by Czech author Bohumil Hrabal:

Mr. Baltazar’s Death (24 minutes, Jiří Menzel)
The Imposters (11 minutes, Jan Němec)
The House of Joy (23 minutes, Evald Schorm)
The Restaurant the World (24 minutes, Věra Chytilová)
Romance (24 minutes, Jaromil Jireš)