Remember when you first saw THIS?
There are images from films that stay with you forever…and perhaps no movie has ever included more of these shocking images than “The Exorcist.”
I have been asked several times about what I consider to be the most shocking films ever made: in terms of raw power and brilliant film making, the 70’s had a number of them: “The Exorcist” and “A Clockwork Orange” are two of the best examples:
Both films were considered controversial movies at the time…but brilliant as well: in fact, both “The Exorcist” and “A Clockwork Orange” were nominated for Best Picture.
Another extreme and controversial movie is the complete uncut “Straw Dogs”, which is also considered a masterpiece.
What makes these movies so controversial? The often taboo subject matter of course, especially in the context of their time. They all showed things on film that were beyond the pale at that point in time. I will never forget the shock when Dustin Hoffman sheds his pacifist skin and takes up arms against his enemies in “Straw Dogs” – in shockingly violent ways….
This sudden explosion of violence is not only shocking, it’s the moment when the audience is forced to take sides, and accept violence as a suitable – and as the film advocates – “necessary” alternative to peace…
And of course, the shocking rape scene is one of the most uncomfortable moments ever captured in film…Director Sam Peckinpah knew it would shock the audience, and it also traumatized Actress Susan George…
The film ends with an orgy of violence – including her chance to get revenge on those men who assaulted her…
These movies had shocking imagery, adult themes, and taboo subject matter – they pushed buttons and outraged censors.
“A Clockwork Orange” was nominated for Best Picture of 1971. The movie’s critical acclaim didn’t lessen its controversial nature, however. Shortly after the film’s release, Director Stanley Kubrick was shaken by an incident of “copycat violence” in his native England.
Kubrick asked Warner Brothers to withdraw the film from British distribution, disliking the allegation that the film was responsible for copycat violence in real life. The film went unseen in England for decades.
If you want to read all about Oscar’s X-Rated fixation, check out my post HERE:
Even today, Malcolm McDowell’s look in the film is iconic. And who can forget this image from “The Exorcist?”
In the decades since, there have been many shocking films released – many without artistic merit, but some that are challenging AND worthwhile…and I am going to discuss three recent examples now.
DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!
I have to admit up front that some of you SHOULDN’T read this post: I am discussing three of the most shocking, extreme films ever released. There are many more of course, some of which (Irreversible, Anti-Christ, Trouble Every Day, The Human Centipede) I have written about in other posts. You might find these movies simply too extreme for your taste, and that is understandable.
However, for those who are adventurous, and willing to understand that some stories are told in an extreme way FOR AN ARTISTIC PURPOSE – whether they are easy to watch or not, then this post is for you.
Here are two of the most shocking and controversial films ever released to mainstream audiences – both can be found on DVD – they were theatrically released, and most importantly: they received rave reviews alongside with harsh criticism – they are controversial and polarizing, yet they are artistic statements with as many supporters as detarctors – and they are shocking.
Martyrs – 2008
This shocking French film is part of what is called “the new French extremism”. There are other examples, but this one has an ending that is both shocking and intellectual…Here is the original French trailer, which is GRAPHIC:
Here is the plot: Fifteen years after a horrifying experience of abduction and prolonged torture, Lucie embarks on a bloody quest for revenge against her oppressors. Along with her childhood friend, Anna, who also suffered abuse, she quickly descends, without hope, into madness and her own delusions.
The story of Anna and Lucie soon turns from one of revenge into something MUCH darker…
Mademoiselle: “Lucie was only a victim. Like all the others. It’s so easy to create a victim, young lady, so easy. You lock someone in a dark room. They begin to suffer. You feed that suffering. Methodically, systematically and coldly. And make it last. Your subject goes through a number of states. After a while, their trauma; that small, easily opened crack, makes them see things that don’t exist.”
“Martyrs” begins as a revenge action film, then abruptly shifts into a philosophical discussion of what is, in fact, a “martyr”…
Mademoiselle: “Martyrs are exceptional people. They survive pain, they survive total deprivation. They bear all the sins of the earth. They give themselves up. They transcend themselves… they are transfigured.”
The film was categorized as a new example of new era French horror films with regards to the level of violence it depicts. Others, such as “Inside” and “High Tension” (AKA Switchblade Romance) also break new ground in graphic imagery.
Todd Brown at Twitch called Martyrs “without a doubt the single most divisive film to screen in the Cannes Marche Du Film this year”.
It is a tough viewing experience, and haunting in many ways….
LAST CHANCE TO TURN AROUND!
Now it’s time to discuss what is, without a doubt, in my opinion the most extreme film that has ever been theatrically released…you have been WARNED.
A Serbian Film – 2010
First, here is the official US trailer – again, the trailer, like the film, is VERY GRAPHIC:
Every few years a movie is released that polarizes EVERYONE – so rough, so beyond the pale, that it prompts calls for legislative action – and in this case, prompted a Film Festival Executive to be ARRESTED simply for showing the film.
Here is the plot of “A Serbian Film”: In Serbia, the retired porn star Milos is married to wife Marija and they have a little son, Peter, that is their pride and joy.
The family is facing financial difficulties, but out of the blue, Milos is offered a job in an art film. Milos is introduced to the director Vukmir, who offers a millionaire contract to act in the film.
However, Vukmir will neither show the screenplay or tell the story of the film to Milos. He must accept it sight unseen. Milos discuss the proposal with Marija and he signs the contract. But soon he finds that Vukmir and his crew are involved in sick snuff films of pedophilia, necrophilia and torture – and Milos has to find a way to protect his family and save himself.
Here is how one Critic described the film: “‘A Serbian Film’ is an metaphor standing for the writers perception of Serbian government; how they are puppeteers; controlling everything around them. They deliberately showed their metaphor in an extreme way; to emphasize their opinion.”
A Meditation On A Police State…
In the press notes director Srdjan Spasojevic is quoted as saying “this is a diary of our own molestation by the Serbian government. It’s about the monolithic power of leaders who hypnotize you to do things you don’t want to do”. Taking place in a country that lives in the shadow of The Yugoslav Wars, the film’s metaphorical representation of the Serbian government and its nation during that time is not only apparent in the story but is overtly referenced in some dialogue passages (“Vukmir! Sounds like a name of one of our guys at the Hague tribunal”).
I agree the film is a metaphor – an extremely powerful one at that…but WOW! – this is simply the most shocking, controversial film ever released to mainstream theaters…Look at what has happened upon release:
The Serbian state prosecution opened an investigation to find out if the film violates the law. It was investigated for elements of crime against sexual morals and crime related to the protection of minors.
It was banned by a court in San Sebastián, Spain for “threatening sexual freedom” and thus could not be shown in the 21st Horror and Fantasy Film Festival. The film was shown at an adults-only screening at the Spanish Sitges Film Festival during October 2010. As a result, the festival’s director Ángel Sara was ARRESTED and charged with exhibiting child pornography by the Spanish prosecutor who decided to take action in May 2011 after receiving a complaint from a Roman Catholic organization over a pair of scenes involving the rapes of a young child and a newborn. The charges were later dropped.
On November 26, 2010, the film was refused classification by the Australian Classification Board, banning sales and public showings of the film in Australia. However, on April 5, 2011, the Australian Classification Board approved a censored version of the film. However, later in 2011, the censored version was also re-refused classification after review.
On July 12 and 16, 2011, the film was screened at FANTASPOA in Porto Alegre, Brazil and at least at one other film festival in the country, before being banned just before a screening in Rio de Janeiro. Initially the ban applied only in Rio, but afterwards the decision became valid throughout the country, pending further judgement of the film.
But Then There Are Awards, Too…
As controversial as this film is, it has also been critically acclaimed. On March 2011, A Serbian Film won the Special Jury Prize in the 31st edition of Fantasporto, Portugal’s biggest film festival, in Porto. It was banned in Norway on account of sexual representation of children and extreme violence in a fictional medium. It is one of the few modern day movies to be banned in Norway – the first since Takeshi Miike’s “Ichi The Killer” (2001)
I have seen reviews that apologized for making it to the end of the film – reviews that demanded you NOT TO WATCH – I can’t argue that, but now you know what the fuss is all about – it is, without question, the most extreme movie ever made.
Thanks for reading this look at the world’s most extreme films – I would love to hear your thoughts!
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