The difference between violence and torture

25 Aug

I can handle blood. Guts don’t faze me. Mass killings of innocent people? Meh, whatev.

But when you take a character and show, in detail, in slow, agonizing detail, the torture that character, I cannot handle it. I will close my eyes if I’m into the movie enough or plug my ears and say “Nanananananananana” if it’s brutal enough, or, in some instances, shut off the movie and put on “The Cosby Show.”

Last night, I saw “Inglourious Basterds,” and I warned my two movie companions: I can’t handle torture. If it gets too bad, I might claw you. You might have to leave here with scratch  marks all over your arms. If it gets too bad, I might leave.

It most certainly did not get too bad. In fact, when I left the theater last night, I had such a huge grin on my face that my mouth was open. Such was my expression for the next 15 minutes.

Was it violent? Of course. Can Quentin Tarantino make a movie that’s not violent?

Did I love this violence? Oh, you betcha.

(Beware, if you continue reading past this jump. I am not to be held responsible for any spoilers you read. I talk about the movie in depth enough to be construed as “Giving stuff away.” Read on at your own caution, and don’t blame me if you wind up unhappy.)

The very best scene of the movie was its final scene, one that could easily be described as “torture.” But, you see, this is torturing the bad guy, which is entirely different. Torturing the innocent makes my stomach churn, and I want to sob. Torturing the bad guy makes me laugh and clap my hands like some ancient Greek at a gladiator tournament.

In this case, the torture was to carve something, with a very large knife, into a man’s forehead. The film showed every. Single. Carve. I saw the skin split and splinter. I saw the blood. I heard the screams of the carvee. And through it all, yes, I cheered.

Not to say I’m heartless. There is a scene I did not watch. A man had a bat, and he wanted to play wiffle ball with a German soldier’s head. A very calm, courageous German soldier. I had no interest in seeing this, and the sickening thud while the Jew swung his bat was really quite enough for me. No need for open eyes, thankyouverymuch.

The thing with the violence in “Basterds,” though, was that it was unique. That’s a strange word to describe violence, I suppose, but in this case, it’s an accurate one. Brad Pitt, for example, sticks his finger in a gunshot wound sustained by Diane Kruger. She screams. He pushes in his finger further. She screams louder, and she sweats. All the meanwhile, I am squirming in my seat like a fish on the beach, looking for the lake. I cannot look away. I cannot wipe the mixed expression of horror and fascination from my face.

To a lesser extent, this happens when the Basterds scalp the Germans they kill, and when The Bad Guy strangles someone with his hands.

Dare I say it: This is one of the most phenomenal movies I’ve ever seen. And I’m not even a huge Tarantino fan. But the story is that intriguing, and the characters are that perfect, and much of the scenery is shot that beautifully. There were at least two scenes that I wouldn’t mind printing out in still form and framing on my wall.

To those who made it this far in the blog, you’ve either seen the movie already or don’t care to. If you fall in the former group, what did you think?


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