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.

The Dance of Reality

The Dance of Reality (La danza de la realidad). Alejandro Jodorowsky, 2013.
Edition screened: Pathé/Abkco Blu-ray, released 2013. Spanish language with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 130 minutes.

Summary: Real and simulated animal deaths.

1) Thousands of sardines suddenly are stranded on a beach in a demonstration of magical or religious power, 7:32. The countless (real) fish flop and die while gulls descend. Peasants come on the beach at 8:45, throw the struggling fish into piles, then display them in a heap in their village. Over at 9:10.
2) A funeral for a bulldog shows the dead dog lying on an alter, 37:03-37:47. There is no trauma to the dog’s body.
3) A donkey’s throat is slit at 54:04, and the animal is forced to the ground by a throng of peasants who begin extracting meat. Over at 54:20.
4) An especially beautiful horse is shown falling and dying in his stall after eating poison flowers, 1:21:30-1:21:40. (Muscle relaxants clearly were used in filming.) Two men attend to the horse while he is lying on his side and depicted as dying through 1:21:56. He is shot off screen 1:23:37, with no further images.

The Dance of Reality recounts a pivotal time in Jodorowsky’s youth through the filter of a life spent studying mysticism and religion. Some scenes reflect his previous films, especially Santa Sangre (1989) with its settings of circus and Chilean poverty. The most emotional and shocking scenes in Santa Sangre are the (unexplained, apparently natural) death of the circus’s beloved baby elephant and the funeral of that animal which ends with peasants seizing the carcass for meat. In The Dance of Reality the (unexplained, apparently natural) death of the fire brigade’s bulldog mascot is followed soon by the peasant attack on a donkey that has carried much-needed water to them. The trappings of circus, heavy-set matriarchs, imprisoned torture, and confused distress about animals’ lives swirl within both films. Autobiographical truth lies within somewhere.