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.

Children of Men

Children of Men. Alfonso Cuar贸n, 2006.
Edition screened: Universal Blu-ray, released 2009. English language. Runtime approximately 110 minutes.

Summary: Dead animals in a dystopian setting.

1) We pass a field in which dead horses were burned in piles, and see their charred bodies, 5:13-5:21.
2) Clive Owen steps over a dead chicken in a stairwell, barely visible behind a live chicken, 1:28:22.

This is a very violent movie about a horrifying possible near-future of global brutality. Many directors would have taken the cheap and easy route of showing us packs of dogs gunned down, cats tortured, and livestock convulsing. Kudos to Cuar贸n for focusing on the one, short, pyre scene to convey all the violence that animals were suffering along with the humans who were at fault.