Saturday, November 6, 2010

When is it too much?

Oscar winner Danny Boyle's new film, 127 Hours, tells the story of mountain climber Aron Ralston whose arm gets pinned beneath a boulder and he must chop off his own arm in order to scale a 65 foot wall and get rescued. It opened this weekend in limited release and expands wide Nov. 19th, and I am dying to see it, but recently the movie has fallen to controversy, not because of what we usually find controversial, but from violence. Early buzz from screenings at Telluride, Toronto, and now press screenings, have been that the scene where Ralston (played by James Franco) chops off his arm, has caused vomiting and even fainting in screenings. The scene is told to be highly graphic; probably the most graphic moment is when Ralston cuts through the nerve in his arm! Many have complained about this scene upon seeing the movie, and this begs the question: When is it too much for an audience to handle a certain scene in a movie?

Obviously everyone has different tolerance levels on this sort of subject matter, and while I was young, I remember a similar backlash in the late '90s when Saving Private Ryan came out; many in the press and the media citing the D-Day scene as too gory and realistic for their liking, but jump about 12 years ahead, Saving Private Ryan is considered a classic and one of the best of its genre. Studio Fox Searchlight asked director Danny Boyle if he wanted to cut or trim the sequence down in 127 Hours, but Boyle politely declined. For that, I applaud Boyle to sticking to his guns. If you want someone to feel the pain that Ralston went through, you must make that 20 minute sequence as real as possible. While scenes of excessive gore may bother some, there are others that it wont, and to compromise that realism can make the difference between a classic and that movie that was just okay.

To have a universal cap on violence, or even stuff like nudity, can often hamper the goal of a movie. The MPAA enforces such things with their rating system, and they tell you up front, if a movie is rated R, it cites the reasons why. If a movie is rated NC-17, it tells you why. If they say a movie has grisly violence, and you get squeamish at such things, then it's probably best not to see this particular movie. Same as if you don't want to see a naked person on screen. Every nation in the world has a similar rating system, and they inform the viewer so that the viewer can make the decision as to whether or not to see said movie. As it is, 127 Hours is rated R for violence, so one should definitely heed with caution before seeing the movie.

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