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#21 Thom

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 01:39 PM

I am pressed for time but wanted to post.

I would like to see and read more regarding this discussion but in a way that is expressing our perspectives and convictions without pointing a finger as to who may be right or wrong, or more mature, or more subject to sin, or etc. This shouldn’t be an attack situation. Code Red – terror alert!!

This could be a discussion that allows for growth and understanding. This forum has the potential to establish a much-needed place in the world of criticism and artistic debate, a place that will establish open communication in wisdom and in grace.

These comments and/or questions are specifically directed toward followers of Christ, considering the fact that we follow a different set of standards (patterns) than those who do not know Christ and we exercise our standards differently, just like in Christ we exercise our freedoms differently.

If we are going to have such standards shouldn’t we engage in scriptural support of those standards instead of emotional responses? This seems to be where we need to differentiate ourselves as Christians engaging in the arts, theory and criticism. Shouldn’t we be able to discuss such things together in a way that shows the watching world a different interaction? Even if, in the end, we may find that we will never see eye to eye.

How do we determine our standards and why do we think we can force assimilation of those standards on all people?

Where do we begin to draw the lines of absolutes, absolute lines that stretch across all levels, for all people?

How is it that we define our standard of absolute and where is our grace in dealing with such matters?

Everyone draws a line setting his or her standard of acceptable viewing material, so how do you draw your line where you do?

In my mind, this discussion reflects rather poorly on this board and the kind of interaction I would like to see take place here.


#22 Overstreet

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 02:01 PM

For what it's worth:

I believe that everyone involved in the act of making, viewing, and discussing a film bears some measure of ethical responsibility. After all, the more people there are willing to watch stuff, the more of it will be made. When on-camera activity departs from the realm of "simulation," "illusion," "pretending," and asking us to "suspend disbelief," then it departs from the realm of art and enters the realm of literal communication. And when inappropriate acts are actually committed rather than simulated, we bear the ethical responsibility of responding rather than sitting by idly and merely observing.

Like killing, sex is an act of actual literal consequences. An actual, literal union is created. No matter how much the actors might say they're acting, they cannot deny that a union has been made, an intimacy achieved, that is far beyond the bounds of a kiss.

I believe that sex is a sacred act, created by God for the purpose of the private union of a man and a woman in an act of love, an expression and a symbol of commitment and union that reflects God's own complete sacrifice of himself to us. I do not have a problem with this part of human experience being "simulated" to contribute to a work of art, as I believe art has the power to communicate transcendant things to us about all areas of life. However, a real sex act on film represents A) unethical action on the part of the actors, for desecrating a sacred act; cool.gif unethical action on the part of the artist, for making public what should be kept private; C) unethical action on the part of anyone knowingly distributing or contributing to such a work. Further, if someone goes ahead and views such a work knowing that they will be party to this, I feel they desecrate this union as well, by observing what is not meant to be observed by others, what was created for privacy.

Just as I do not approve of artists *killing* human beings on camera, I do not approve of artists degrading the gift of sex on camera, or involving anyone in that act.

I've heard people say equating those two things is a gross misjudgment. And clearly, they are two very different things. But just as I believe killing, physical abuse, and self-mutilation are crimes against God's creation and thus against God, I believe removing sex from the purpose for which it was created is a crime, and to remove myself from my ethical objection in order to make some aesthetic judgment of it is like divorcing myself from an act of killing or abuse onscreen and saying, "But wow, the way he made that guys blood splatter was really artful, and I encourage others to check this out."

Simulated sex between characters is one thing. Any actual engagement in sex onscreen requires actors to do something that is not, at its core, acting; it creates an exchange of permanent consequences between actors, forces them into an undeniable and irreversible intimacy that has everything to do with their real person and nothing to do with character.

I would also add that personally, having been so deeply wounded by another's sexual infidelity (and I'm NOT talking about Anne), and having been so deeply grieved to see what the abuse of sex has done in the relationships of others, I am too grieved to see sex actually abused onscreen. And it saddens me to know that others seem perfectly okay watching such inappropriate behavior; it seems to me that they are ignorant of the consequences that take place on a physical, mental, and spiritual level, even if the consequences are merely a further numbing of one's conscience to the gravity of what one has committed.

I remember a kid who tried to rent "Faces of Death" from me at the store one time defensively sneering, "Well, it doesn't do me any harm." I also remember the indifferent of the family man who rented pornos when his wife was out of town, and the expression on his face when, a few weeks later, he stood at the counter with his wife and she innocently asked to see a family rental record so she could make sense of their late-fee situation. Denial leading to consequences.

It is, when it comes down to it, the same reason I can't watch a good deal of "candid camera"-style entertainment like "Jackass" ... because we are entertained at the expense of real human beings on camera.

#23 Visigoth

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 03:12 PM

QUOTE
Just as I do not approve of artists *killing* human beings on camera, I do not approve of artists degrading the gift of sex on camera, or involving anyone in that act.


I agree with you Jeffery. As far as violence goes, I think I remember readeing that "Welcome To Sarajevo" included live footage of bombings and victims . . . is that true ? ?

In that case, I think, Actual Death only made the point of the film more urgent.

However, I cannot think of an instance where actual coitus on screen would make the drama or philosophical point of any film more poignant or incisive.




#24 SDG

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 03:14 PM

I haven't much time at the moment... but I second Jeffrey's comments, and add a few quick, preliminary thoughts.

I believe that Jeffrey is right about what I would describe as the private dimension to the conjugal act. I believe there are two reasons for this privacy, both rooted in God's word. One is a positive reason; the other is a negative reason.

The positive reason has to do with the exclusivity of the conjugal act itself. A man and a woman give themselves to one another as nuptial gift, and forsaking all others become one flesh. This gift belongs to the two of them alone, and its exclusiveness does not begin and end with the act of penetration itself. Spouses may not, for example, engage in heavy petting with other parties and consider themselves faithful, nor may they perform stripteases for other parties. Nor may spouses invite their neighbors to observe them in the conjugal act, either directly or via electronic media.

Nonsexual nudity in a doctor's office or public locker room is one thing. I also support the principle that nudity can be legitimately used for artistic purposes, though it also presents certain potential difficulties. The body as nuptial gift, though, is something that may be shared only with one's spouse. The gift that is for one pair of hands and arms and body alone is also for one pair of eyes alone. The flip side is also the case. The body as nuptial gift that is not mine to receive with my hands and arms is not mine to receive with my eyes either. My wife has the same right in this connection to my eyes that she has to the rest of me.

Reinforcing this is the negative reason, which has to do with the deep vulnerability of our appetites on this point, and the prominence that God's word and historic Christian belief has placed on warnings against coveting or looking lustfully upon one's neighbor's wife. Sexual sins are far from the worst sins we can commit, but temptations in this area are among the most common, powerful, and overwhelming.

It is not for nothing that God gave our first parents clothing. It is not for nothing that copulating in public, or even walking around in public naked, is generally not allowed. It is not for nothing that bedrooms have doors, or that a man goes into a woman in private and uncovers the mystery of her being. It is not for nothing that any one of us, if he accidentally walked through the wrong door and saw a couple in the throes of passion, would instantly avert his eyes and stumble red-faced from the room as quickly as humanly possible.

Movies have the potential to glamorize and glorify many kinds of immoral behavior. But depicting and watching THIS kind of behavior is DIFFERENT. A gratuitously violent film may be as contrary to human dignity as an excessively sexy one, but God, while he has commanded us not to murder, did not deem it necessary to issue commands having to do with seeing murder, and for a good reason: violent imagery has nowhere near the power of arousing the passions to do likewise that sexy imagery has.

If an action movie tempts a man to long murderously for the villain's death, it is because narratively it has got him to hate that particular villain. It's much easier for a movie to tempt him to long lustfully to see the heroine naked. No special character development or plot devices necessary.

There are limits to what can be legitimately depicted -- and watched -- in art in this connection, whether simulated or in fact. Like many questions in this area, such as what is permitted to a couple on the night before their wedding as opposed to the following night, drawing a clear line may be impossible, but it is quite possible to point to things that are clearly on the far side of the line. And in both cases, actual sex is an example of such a clear-cut violation.

#25 Visigoth

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 03:19 PM

QUOTE
Nonsexual nudity in a doctor's office or public locker room is one thing. I also support the principle that nudity can be legitimately used for artistic purposes, though it also presents certain potential difficulties. The body as nuptial gift, though, is something that may be shared only with one's spouse.


Agreed.


I was reminded of the cold clinical nudity in "Wit" when I read that paragraph.

#26 Overstreet

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 03:21 PM

QUOTE
I agree with you Jeffrey. As far as violence goes, I think I remember readeing that "Welcome To Sarajevo" included live footage of bombings and victims . . . is that true ? ?


I assume you mean footage of an event that happened independent of the film but that was used to enhance the film and place the story in context. I desperately hope you don't mean that the filmmakers actually arranged for bombings and real victims in order to enhance their film.

There's a big difference.


#27 Visigoth

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 03:26 PM

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I assume you mean footage of an event that happened independent of the film but that was used to enhance the film and place the story in context.


Not sure if it happened during filming, or if the film included news clips of previous journalists . . . . I am searching for it now. . . .

Do not some holocaust movies include film footage of atrocities as well ? ? ?

Of course they did not arrange the bombings ..


#28 SDG

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 03:34 PM

I support the line of reasoning in the last few posts as a valid point of comparison / contrast, while also stressing the difference of exhibiting or watching explicit real sex on film, however it was made or acquired.

I can imagine scenarios in which real atrocities captured on film might be legitimately exhibited. I do not believe there is any defense to be made for exhibiting explicit footage of real sex, no matter how the footage came to be.

A couple might accidentally webcast their bedroom behavior via the bedroom computer webcam. They might later sign a waiver saying they wouldn't mind if it were put in a film. It would still be wrong.

#29 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 03:35 PM

Re: violence, I remember reading a strong critique of Oliver Stone years ago which said that JFK gave him the opportunity to indulge in an exploding-head shot for real; this refers, of course, to the Zapruder footage ("Back, and to the left ... back, and to the left..." or whatever Costner says). I don't have any objection to films making use of that sort of thing, myself, provided they do so responsibly. (In a related vein, I remember World magazine was very critical of Contact for taking a speech Bill Clinton gave after the Oklahoma City bombing and using that footage as though his speech was referring to a fictitious bombing in the film.)

Re: sex and the commodification thereof ... just wondering, Jeff, where you see yourself in that chain of ethical responsibility, as one who worked at a video store that included pornography among the videos it rented out. (I worked at such a store myself, too, and thankfully never had to deal with the scenarios that you describe here!)

#30 SDG

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 03:39 PM

QUOTE
Re: sex and the commodification thereof ... just wondering, Jeff, where you see yourself in that chain of ethical responsibility, as one who worked at a video store that included pornography among the videos it rented out. (I worked at such a store myself, too, and thankfully never had to deal with the scenarios that you describe here!)

I don't know what Jeff would say, but that sounds to me potentially like a case of what my tradition would call "remote material cooperation," which is potentially morally justifiable.

#31 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 03:39 PM

Something else occurs to me. Y'all know how iffy I feel about the depiction of real violence against animals in film (Andrei Rublev, Apocalypse Now, Time of the Wolf, Mean Creek, etc.). But since we kill animals for food and clothing and medicine and whatnot, I cannot complain that the behaviour captured on film is necessarily or intrinsically wrong.

I wonder, then, where stuff like Tom Green masturbating a horse in Freddy Got Fingered would fall on the spectrum here. Farmers masturbate animals as part of their work, do they not (when helping their animals to breed, or stud, or when collecting sperm, or whatever)? There is nothing intrinsically immoral about this, as I understand it. So is it wrong to film that?

#32 SDG

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 03:52 PM

Not intrinsically immoral on sexual morality grounds, no.

#33 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 01:17 PM

"The Most Sexually Explicit Film Ever" Is Passed by U.K. Censors
What Britain's Sky News has described as "the most sexually explicit film ever in British cinema" has been passed by British censors. On Monday the British Board of film Classification gave director Michael Winterbottom's 9 Songs an 18 rating -- allowing moviegoers 18 and older to attend it -- commenting that the numerous sex scenes in it are actually "sensual, not sexual" and that they are "exceptionally justified by context." It concluded: "Some people may find such explicit images shocking or unexpected in a cinema film. The Board is sensitive to public concerns, and its guidelines are based on extensive consultation ... The Board has concluded in this case that adults should be free to choose whether or not to see the film." The film follows a young couple from their first date to their break-up. Their relationship is punctuated by nine concerts that they attend -- hence, the title.

#34 Overstreet

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 01:34 PM

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Not intrinsically immoral on sexual morality grounds, no.


Blatantly immoral? No. In very poor taste? Most likely.

The filming of stuff like that just jars me out of any suspension of disbelief and gets me thinking skeptically about the director, the actors, and the "stunt" ... which suggests that this is a poor "artistic" decision.

#35 SDG

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 02:42 PM

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Blatantly immoral? No. In very poor taste? Most likely.

Sure.

Of course, matters of taste throw us solidly into the midst of the vast, messy grey area in the middle of this complicated issue.

Now, grappling with that grey messiness is a big part of what criticism is all about. What is gratuitous in one context (or in the responsible judgment of one critic) may well be warranted in another context (or in the responsible judgment of another critic).

But I don't think any final judgment is possible when dealing with matters of taste or grey areas, certainly not humanly speaking. We can argue our opinions and convictions, and listen to others' arguments, and perhaps in some cases some sort of consensus may even emerge. Certainly in particular communities there may be norms or accepted standards.

But the expression "There's no accounting for taste" holds true, in its original sense (i.e., NOT "There's no accounting for the fact of taste," in the analytical sense of "accounting," but "No one is to be called to account for his taste," i.e., taste is not a matter for any final judgment of right or wrong).

If some honest, decent Christian tells me that he happens to love the horse scene in Freddy Got Fingered, and not for prurient reasons, I might find that inexplicable, but I would find it very problematic to say that he is "wrong."

The burden of my earlier posts in this thread, as in many others, has been to argue that, however wide and complex the grey areas may be, and however vast the area rightly ceded to Christian liberty, somewhere beyond the pale of that grey area are clear landmarks of black and white.

But I couldn't possibly draw a clear, clean line between what is and isn't permitted in depicting intimacy onscreen. I have no hard and fast answers here about where the line is. In some extreme cases I can confidently put something on one side or the other of the line, but where the line IS I can only humbly admit that I have no idea.

I suppose in a way it's like the line between the atmosphere and outer space. I know there's a convention about where space is supposed to start, but I guess it's at least somewhat arbitrary. Nevertheless, I can confidently identify regions that are clearly so far past the "line" in one direction or the other that there is no doubt that THIS point (e.g., ten feet above sea level) is in the atmophere while THAT point (e.g., ten light-years beyond the orbit of Pluto) is in outer space.

If I were to try to draw up a purely personal map or chart of the issues around depicting intimacy onscreen, rather than two categories I might come up with eight or ten (and I emphasize again that the divisions would be purely personal):
  1. what is certainly legitimate
  2. what I would have no real doubt is legitimate
  3. what I would strongly feel is legitimate
  4. what I would be reasonably comfortable with
  5. what I would have questions about
  6. what I would be somewhat uncomfortable with
  7. what I would have strong reservations about
  8. what I would have no real doubt is illegitimate
  9. what is certainly illegitimate
I doubt, furthermore, if I would be able to draw hard and fast borders between most of these categories, although I could probably give examples.

For example, I seem to recall in Presumed Innocent Harrison Ford having Gretta Scacci's breast in his mouth. That's a case in point of a degree of intimacy that, in my opinion, should not transpire between actors, should not be filmed, should not be exhibited. I wouldn't automatically consider the movie as a whole reprehensible just on the basis of one such scene, but I would object to the scene. On the scale above, I would consider this a hard 7 at least, probably an 8.

But I said "in my opinion." It's a grey area, and I wouldn't insist on my judgment over anyone else's. Other people will disagree. Some people will argue that such a scene DOES render the movie as a whole reprehensible. Others will argue that there's nothing wrong with the scene itself. I would be in the middle. I don't see how there can be any definitive judgment in the matter.

But the grey area does not, I believe, extend to every possible example that can be imagined, or that has actually been realized on film.

#36 Overstreet

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 02:53 PM

QUOTE
For example, I seem to recall in Presumed Innocent Harrison Ford having Gretta Scacci's breast in his mouth.


Just out of curiosity, would you react the same way to I Heart Huckabees, in which we see Jason Schwartzman with Jude Law's breast in his mouth? biggrin.gif

#37 SDG

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 02:58 PM

QUOTE (Jeffrey Overstreet @ Oct 19 2004, 03:52 PM)
QUOTE
For example, I seem to recall in Presumed Innocent Harrison Ford having Gretta Scacci's breast in his mouth.

Just out of curiosity, would you react the same way to I Heart Huckabees, in which we see Jason Schwartzman with Jude Law's breast in his mouth? biggrin.gif

Oh dear. headscratch.gif

Um... NO. It would definitely NOT be the SAME reaction.

#38 Overstreet

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 03:03 PM

I can't think of any image this year I'd prefer to have removed from my memory more than that one. And I've seen Time of the Wolf. sad.gif

#39 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 06:02 PM

SDG wrote:
: For example, I seem to recall in Presumed Innocent Harrison Ford having Gretta
: Scacci's breast in his mouth. That's a case in point of a degree of intimacy that, in
: my opinion, should not transpire between actors, should not be filmed, should not
: be exhibited. I wouldn't automatically consider the movie as a whole reprehensible
: just on the basis of one such scene, but I would object to the scene.

Hmmm, not sure if I remember that scene. FWIW, I think the first time I ever saw the breast-in-mouth thing was in one of the Malkovich-Thurman scenes in Dangerous Liaisons. (Much more recently, the Penn-Watts scene in 21 Grams comes to mind.)

I remember discussing similar issues in the OnFilm yahoogroup years ago, after seeing Lars von Trier's The Idiots. I didn't have any interest in defending the gratuitous hardcore insert shot (um, no pun intended -- I mean the shot ITSELF, which I believe was staged with porn "stunt doubles" and not with the film's regular cast, was inserted into the montage), but there was ANOTHER scene that I found very funny, and very defensible, even though it basically involved one man holding another man's penis for a few minutes. It's kind of hard to explain without getting bogged down in various plot points, but suffice to say, the man doing the holding is, IIRC, a tough and macho biker type who thinks he is helping a mentally retarded person go to the bathroom, while the man being held is actually a normal guy who was only PRETENDING to be mentally retarded, but who now dares not reveal the truth, lest the biker beat him up for deceiving him; and so the man being held has to make himself pee to satisfy the man who is holding him, and he has a difficult time doing this, for reasons that go beyond the normal "performance anxiety" most guys might experience when they are in a washroom and there is a line-up behind the urinal. It's a very funny scene, and there is nothing sexual about it, but still, it goes beyond what MOST movies would show.

And now I wonder if it would make any moral difference if everything about this scene was kept the same, except the person holding the penis was a woman.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway, 19 October 2004 - 06:06 PM.


#40 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 10 December 2004 - 04:16 PM

Director slams movie's X rating
"In 9 Songs, I wanted to explore the relationship between physical and emotional intimacy. How is it possible to do that without trying to honestly show the two characters at their most intimate?" Winterbottom said in a statement obtained by The Australian. This statement will accompany an appeal by the distributors, Accent Film Entertainment, to have the classification downgraded to an R18+ rating. The Office of Film and Literature Classification gave the film an X18+ rating last month for its real sex sequences.
The Australian, December 10

- - -

The physical intimacy is on the same plane as the emotional intimacy? Oh, so are those two actors really in love, then? Cuz here I thought they were ACTING.