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 Last Bolshevik

The Last Bolshevik (Le Tombeau d'Alexandre). Chris Marker, 1993.
Edition screened: Icarus 2-DVD set, released 2008. English, French, and Russian languages with English subtitles. Runtime approximately 120 minutes.

Summary: No depictions of violence or harm to animals.

Details: If you’re not paying attention, final scenes in The Last Bolshevik appear to show a dog being gassed and other systematic forms of animal torture. In fact, these are excerpts from a late Medvedkin film about ecology, and the images show animals being cleaned and detoxified after environmental mishaps.

Marker shows his genius in helping us understand an artist, a political era, and the historical recoloring of both. This exposé on the great Russian filmmaker Alexander Medvedkin is enjoyable and essential edification.

The Icarus DVD set also includes Medvedkin’s full-length feature Happiness, as well as several short films.