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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.132.93.170
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 10:20 am:   

Could a clearly immoral film ever be made? Could we ever see a film that showed happy nazis, shot in a way that makes us feel we should be empathising with them? Or a romantic film about Brady and Hindley that made us feel what they were feeling? I bet not, but would there be value in such things, and if so, what? I suppose i'm wondering if art should go as far and wide as possible, that we should or should not try on allsorts of shoes, albeit only in the imagination (I for one love the idea of rampant scary killers but also - obviously, I hope - hate the idea of anyone being killed). What got me thinking this was that Dexter is so clearly loved by a lot of viewers (or was - I'm just in the middle of season three (no spoilers please)) and I got wondering how far that sort of appreciation for someone unhinged might be stretched.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 11:00 am:   

The Dexter thing - that's something I started playing with last year. I made notes for a novel about a serial-killer worshipping guy who becomes involved with a real life killer - a woman, who then starts to manipulate him into killing. The possibilities are endless. It's that interesting grey area between fasination and actually acting upon your impulses (and the question: are those impulses actually real?)
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 11:51 am:   

Thomas Disch once postulated a film that could never be made: AUSCHWITZ: A COMEDY.

Thirty years later, Roberto Benigni almost made one.
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.183.79.254
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 11:53 am:   

There's a wonderful novel called, I believe, The Sandman, about a serial killer, albeit a somewhat inept one, and that does have you on his side in a way, hoping he'll get away with killing.
I'm unable to recall by whom it was written and when I search Amazon there're a million books by Neil Gaiman so I can't find out from there.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 12:02 pm:   

I've had a 'transgressive' idea for many years for a story that I simply can't bring myself to write. It's too much of a potential minefield. I'll share the basic idea here, though...

A future extremist democratic government is fully committed to upholding all the best liberal values. Racism, ethnic cleansing, prejudice based on race, is the ultimate sin, because all people are equal, no matter their colour or cultural origins. The notion that Jewish people or black people, etc, are somehow "lesser" is anathema (rightly so) to this regime and anyone who expresses such views is genuinely helped to changed their minds.

But there's a thorn in this government's side: gypsies. I don't mean Romany people, but the descendants of those Irish travellers who were refugees from the potato famine. These gypsies spoil everything, they are a stain on the ideals of equality, because they really are lesser... The way they behave, their very existence, gives the lie to "equality". Therefore the government quietly arranges to get rid of them: a secret genocide for the sake of preserving the highest liberal values!

I think this could be a valid satire, but I don't know if I could handle it properly...
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.132.93.170
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 12:14 pm:   

Hmm. We have gypsy problems. They're quite abusive and do steal stuff. Is there a point where we have to say they are just crims?
I wish I could stop having these feelings.

(btw this place is sort of friendlier than facebook I have to say. I think people ignore you over there. :-( )
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.132.93.170
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 12:16 pm:   

And btw my son said the other day that Hitler was nature in human form. It quite astounded me, that.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 12:20 pm:   

I hope you don't think I ignore you over there, Tony?

The point you make extends the idea: even if they are crims, can we express prejudice against them?

What I mean, is that I know plenty of people who detest the concept of prejudice, but who are (unavoidably of course) prejudiced against (for instance) psychos, rapists, thieves, etc. Is it feasible to describe hatred of murderers as reasonable prejudice? If so, must we modify our own definitions of our own morality? I always say that I hate prejudice but I'd love to throw every serial killer over a cliff if I had the chance... Doesn't that make me a bigot? I am bigoted against psycho killers.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 12:35 pm:   

And is the killer of killers also a killer? Or is he a meta-killer? And would different rules apply to such?
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.132.93.170
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 12:40 pm:   

I think murderers and paedophiles are just sick people - I fear them, hate what they do, but cannot think of them as evil at all. Some people's problems are just more intense than others.
I saw this woman on telly the other night who said she adopted a black girl because she wanted a 'black kid' - right in front of her. I think that was racist, and objectified the girl. I bet she felt bloody awful. Adopted people pick up on these things (I am, and do).
No - you don't ignore me, Rhys, but others sort of have been. I've just unfriended them because it was driving me nuts.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.132.93.170
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 12:41 pm:   

BTW someone told me Andy Mcnabb wanted to kill people as a kid, and joined the army as a way to do it legally.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.132.93.170
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 12:42 pm:   

My son Bill (amazin mind that he is) has just suggested we think of such people as 'bullets', and that bullets have a place. My God, he's a genius.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.22.179
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 12:47 pm:   

"There's a wonderful novel called, I believe, The Sandman, about a serial killer, albeit a somewhat inept one, and that does have you on his side in a way, hoping he'll get away with killing."

It's by Miles Gibson, Mick.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 12:51 pm:   

I'm a pacifist, a vegetarian, an atheist, and I'm committed to equality for all.

But I want Rupert Murdoch to be slaughtered horribly by a meat-eating beast and then for his soul to burn in hell... Which means I'm clearly prejudiced against him.

I know I'm stretching the point to absurdity but the point is still there...
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.132.93.170
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 12:54 pm:   

Murdoch, to me, is no more wily or evil than a corner shopkeeper done big.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 01:25 pm:   

So disappointed that this thread didn't consist of links. There's not even a Stevie list.

Instead, we're talking about what rather dubious films might be immoral rather than what great films are 'immoral'.

My favourite 'immoral' films include Querelle, Dogtooth, Christiane F, If... and the recent Love Like Poison. Let's also hear it for Taxi zum Klo (which is slightly dull but as 'immoral' as they come) and the US erotic comedy-drama Threesome, which managed to snag a modest 15 certificate in spite of... well, everything. If you only talk about it, the censors don't mind.

Whether any of the above are immoral (as opposed to 'immoral') is debatable of course. They're good films though.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 01:33 pm:   

Rhys, I thought Benigni's Life Is Beautiful was a brilliant and haunting film, attacked only by people who hadn't seen it or hadn't paid attention while watching it. The film's final impact is very serious, and the comedy has an ironic function – as you say, it's almost a comedy, and that almost is the gap that lets the darkness in. I dare say you agree!
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Paul_finch (Paul_finch)
Username: Paul_finch

Registered: 11-2009
Posted From: 92.5.34.191
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 01:39 pm:   

I don't think you need to venture into the world of the obscure or avant-garde to find 'immoral' movies.

I remember as a child, my father taking me out of cinema two thirds of the way through the John Wayne western, THE COWBOYS, because he said it was "disgracefully immoral". It concerns an old rancher who hires a bunch of schoolboys to help him on a cattle drove. He then gets murdered by Bruce Dern and various other psycho bandits, and the kids go after them, killing them one by one. It was only an A certificate, otherwise I - who couldn't have been more than 10 or 11 at the time - would not have been allowed to see it.

The notion of homicidal vengeance as entertainment, especially when perpetrated by children, is certainly immoral in an orthodox sense. But I wonder if in modern times we've simply become desensitised to 'minor' stuff like that?
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 80.4.12.3
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 02:51 pm:   

Are we talking about great films with immoral themes or films that are themselves immoral objects?

We do tend to make allowances for fictional presentations. A few days ago some bloke in Northern Ireland was fined for writing (on Facebook) that he hoped a local politician would soon be killed. If he had written a short story in which that politician was killed, would he have been fined? I doubt it. But what's the real difference?

For me, a genuinely immoral film is any film that sells the consumer society as a good thing. So anything starring Meg Ryan is immoral...
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Frank (Frank)
Username: Frank

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 86.188.154.178
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 03:34 pm:   

Rhys - the difference, Rhys, unfortunately more people read FB than they do books. I wonder if they might find a casual link between violence prompted by FB as they have done with books and films and comics and computer games...(;
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 04:03 pm:   

If you're not on Facebook, do you really exist? (Note: I'm not.)

I wonder if the mind's many filters renders immoral films impossible for perception. A film that is truly immoral is filtered through the mind to be, here, a metaphor; there, a dystopian fantasy; and there, an ironic black comedy; and over there, an out-and-out horror story; and so on.

There may be some examples that fringe the edge of immoral. The now-banned Disney's SONG OF THE SOUTH, a fine film actually, does implicitly accept - without any seeming moral judgment - the "superior" stance of its white characters vis-a-vis the blacks it presents. The movie is concerned with the vicissitudes of life, and of finding the stoic and ultimately joyful acceptance of whatever awful things descend upon you in life; "Zip-a-dee-do-dah" is such a joyful song, because it's sung by Uncle Remus, who in the film is a wise man who's clearly seen the worst of the world, yet come through with a kind of saving wisdom to share. But we can't wade through the now cringe-inducing (if historically accurate) stereotypes, the un-commented-upon snootiness of the whites towards the blacks... our filters fail in a film like this, and so we're left with the only other option: banning it altogether from viewing.
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Jonathan (Jonathan)
Username: Jonathan

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 91.143.178.131
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 04:34 pm:   

I'm not sure about immoral, but I thought the movie Kick-Ass vacuous, crude and cynical. Thoroughly unpleasant.
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Frank (Frank)
Username: Frank

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 86.188.154.178
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 04:49 pm:   

Yes, Jonathan, I thought the same. Strange considering that 'some' of the films I've watched in the past could be described as definite contenders for immoral.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 04:56 pm:   

...I thought the movie Kick-Ass vacuous, crude and cynical.

Substitute "cynical" with "childishly amoral," and you've got my opinion of Zombieland.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 05:08 pm:   

Surely Kick-ass was only as immoral as any other vigilante movie... There was clear good vs bad all the way through it. The whole thing with Hit girl for me was a pastiche of batman and Robin - even down to the similar looking costumes. Wen you think about it, Robin was the Boy wonder for so long he must have started when he was about Hit Girl's age. All the writers did was up the violence stakes to a more realistic level than Batman and Robin ever did...

Fans of the Kickass comic really disapprove of the ending BTW where Kickass himself gets to kill some bad guys...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 05:15 pm:   

Surely 'The Birth Of A Nation' has to be the most famous "immoral film" of them all with its unrepentant glorifying of the Ku Klux Klan, that went on to inspire a rseurgence in strength of the movement which tooks decades to stamp back into cult fringedom.

The film may be the first epic masterpiece of cinema but that does not make its message any more palatable.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 05:22 pm:   

Am I the only person who thought Human Centipede 2 as soon as I saw the thread title? I've not seen it yet... but if what we hear is true...

I found sections of Hostel to be on very dubious moral grounds. The gang of street kids who kill people for a laugh or a couple of quid seemed particularly not palatable in the way they appeared in the story.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 05:49 pm:   

Just for Joel. Top 10 films (off the top of my head) that left a sour taste in my mouth due to their questionable moral slant or political message:

1. 'Triumph Of The Will' (1935) by Leni Riefenstahl
2. 'The Birth Of A Nation' (1915) by D.W. Griffith
3. 'Faces Of Death' (1980) by Conan Le Cilaire
4. 'Snuff' (1976) by Michael Findlay, Roberta Findlay & Horacio Fredriksson
5. 'Resurrection Man' (1998) by Marc Evans
6. 'Confessions' (2010) by Tetsuya Nakashima
7. 'Forrest Gump' (1994) by Robert Zemeckis
8. 'Sergeant York' (1941) by Howard Hawks
9. 'Pearl Harbour' (2001) by Michael Bay
10. 'The Patriot' (2000) by Roland Emmerich

I'm not saying they're all bad movies though the truly naff ones do stick out like a sore thumb!
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Mick Curtis (Mick)
Username: Mick

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 86.183.79.254
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 06:15 pm:   

It's by Miles Gibson, Mick.

That's the chap - thanks Ramsey.
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.79.92.90
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 06:54 pm:   

"And btw my son said the other day that Hitler was nature in human form. It quite astounded me, that."

Dali: "No dialectical progress will be possible if one adopts the reprehensible attitude of rejecting and fighting against Hitlerism without trying to understand it as fully as possible."

-----

"BTW someone told me Andy Mcnabb wanted to kill people as a kid, and joined the army as a way to do it legally."

John Waters (of all people) taught film-making to prisoners: "If you feel like killing someone, don't do it, just make a film about it instead."

-----

"A few days ago some bloke in Northern Ireland was fined for writing (on Facebook) that he hoped a local politician would soon be killed."

Hmm, that was dodgy of him.
But people still seem to have a superstitious, medieval attitude. Saying that you hope someone gets a horrible disease and dies has zero consequences and yet is seen as a terrible thing.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 08:25 pm:   

Stevie, I would think you could almost put Vertigo on that list; since, if I remember/read that film correctly (and not revealing spoilers), evil wins the day: the agent of nefariousness gets away with its crime, sans punishment and sans judgment....
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.118.73.80
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 08:58 pm:   

There is no such thing as an immoral film. Films are well-directed or badly directed. That is all.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.29.193
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 09:18 pm:   

Stevie – sorry, I was hoping for your list of 'immoral' films rather than immoral ones. In other words, films that are transgressive in a good way, films that (in Rimbaud's phrase) excite you in a way we don't speak of (except that these days, we rarely stop talking about it). None of the films I mentioned are offensive to my mind, none of them are immoral in the sense that you identify.

Another splendid 'immoral' film is Kinsey, though that of course has its basis in reality: it was his regard for truth and his human compassion that made him 'immoral'.

The funniest thing I've ever seen on TV was a South Park episode where Stan's dad was trying to find the children because he had inadvertently given them a porn video. He was tormented by what terrible effects it might have had on them. At the end, he found the kids and tried to put what they had seen into a "moral context" for them. I won't spoil the punchline – you have to see the whole episode.
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Carolinec (Carolinec)
Username: Carolinec

Registered: 06-2009
Posted From: 92.232.199.129
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 09:48 pm:   

Would "A Serbian Film" count as immoral? I haven't seen it, but from what I've read about it ...

Tod Browning's "Freaks" (1930 - or was it '31?) might be seen as immoral, both for its perceived "exploitation" of the actors involved (didn't Browning say something like "If I didn't give them work, who would?") and for its portrayal of the characters as "freaks" because of their disabilities.

But it's interesting to look at how time changes viewpoints like this (re: Craig's comment about the Disney film). At the time, "Freaks" was probably seen as disturbing/horrific BECAUSE it showed people with no legs, conjoined twins, facial disfigurement, etc - the concept of such a "freak" was disturbing in itself. Nowadays, it's more the idea of USING disabled people in such a way which is so disturbing. Am I making any sense? I think I've lost my train of thought.
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Mbfg (Mbfg)
Username: Mbfg

Registered: 09-2010
Posted From: 92.4.162.201
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 10:16 pm:   

For me, an immoral film is the likes of "Airforce 1" with Harrison Ford as the heroic, fist swinging Prez of the Yoo-Nited States. It was a film laced with immense casual cruelty and all kinds of jingo-istic racism, e.g. the Russians were all overweight, chainsmoking drunks etc. It was Tom Clancy on steroids and it stank.

I'm far more adverse to that kind of right wing crap because it dresses its nastiness up in bright colours, than something dark but honest - like "Let the Right One In" which as basicaly ammoral.

Cheers Terry
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John Forth (John)
Username: John

Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 82.24.1.217
Posted on Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 10:43 pm:   

I'm not sure there can be such a thing as an objectively immoral film. Surely, to a degree, you apply your own morals on any piece of fiction you encounter.
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Frank (Frank)
Username: Frank

Registered: 09-2008
Posted From: 86.188.154.178
Posted on Friday, August 05, 2011 - 11:04 am:   

Caroline - Todd Browning was himself from a circus background, and said he was treated with dignity and compassion. This is why the sympathetic characters in Freaks are the people who inhabit the circus. The people from outside of that environment, the cruel, harsh, and unsymapthetic characters, are the so called 'ordinary folk.'

This in itself shows how audience reaction, and subsequently that of the censor, is now seen as the true immorality of the time with regards to that picture.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Friday, August 05, 2011 - 11:47 am:   

> I'm not sure there can be such a thing as an objectively immoral film...

I disagree.

Imagine a DVD of The Sound of Music. Now imagine someone using the edge of that DVD to slit the throat of a nun.

Hey presto, an objectively immoral film!
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, August 05, 2011 - 01:08 pm:   

Hmmm, positively "immoral" films... these are the first that come to mind:

1. 'Salo' (1975) by Pier Paolo Pasolini
2. 'A Clockwork Orange' (1971) by Stanley Kubrick
3. 'The Last Temptation Of Christ' (1988) by Martin Scorsese
4. 'Straw Dogs' (1971) by Sam Peckinpah
5. 'The Night Porter' (1974) by Liliana Cavani
6. 'La Bęte' (1975) by Walerian Borowczyk
7. 'Antichrist' (2009) by Lars von Trier
8. 'Freaks' (1932) by Tod Browning
9. 'The Exorcist' (1973) by William Friedkin
10. 'Shivers' (1975) by David Cronenberg

And loads more when they come to me...
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.26.169
Posted on Friday, August 05, 2011 - 01:11 pm:   

Hmm, Stevie! I struggle to grasp how both the Scorsese and the Friedkin can be immoral in your view...
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.26.169
Posted on Friday, August 05, 2011 - 01:12 pm:   

I was reminded in passing that the comment Mick made about the Miles Gibson book was also said of The Count of Eleven.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, August 05, 2011 - 01:19 pm:   

They're not, Ramsey. I consider them deeply moral works that urged a new maturity in their treatment of Western sacred cows. But they were deemed "immoral" in their day by the general populace and, even yet, by the religious right in particular. My mother still gives off about taking my grandmother to see 'The Exorcist' on first release - to see what all the fuss was about - and storming out in affronted rage when things got "blasphemous". To this day she still proclaims that film a work of profound evil... but that's indoctrinated Irish Catholicism for ya.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.37.199.45
Posted on Friday, August 05, 2011 - 01:26 pm:   

I would say the reader sympathises with Jack Orchard without actually needing to share his belief that the killings are the right thing to do. The interesting question is: at what point does the reader cease to be on his side?

Oddly, I'm always rooting for supernatural evil to triumph in fiction, and disappointed when it fails. That may be because I don't believe it's real, and the triumph of evil is the more imaginatively stimulating option. Dracula in particular seems to cop out big time. But I don't feel the same way about psychopaths in crime thrillers.
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Carolinec (Carolinec)
Username: Carolinec

Registered: 06-2009
Posted From: 92.232.199.129
Posted on Friday, August 05, 2011 - 02:19 pm:   

Frank re 'Freaks' - "This in itself shows how audience reaction, and subsequently that of the censor, is now seen as the true immorality of the time with regards to that picture."

Absolutely. That was what I was trying to say.

So, have we all concluded that immorality is in the eye of the beholder (whether viewer, censor, or whatever)?
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.96.253.77
Posted on Friday, August 05, 2011 - 02:55 pm:   

I think Freaks is one of the best horror films ever made, but Browning kind of dropped the ball at the end and shot to pieces the emnpathy the audience had built up with the carnies by having them turn into vengeful monsters crawling through the mud...I see why he did it, and it adds to the power of the film, but it's almost a get-out clause ("See, they are monsters after all, but only when pushed").

The opening scene, though, when we come upon the "freaks" playing and dancing in a field is, for me, one of the greatest scenes in motion picture history. Jaw-dropping stuff.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Friday, August 05, 2011 - 03:12 pm:   

I lost sympathy with Jack in TCOE as soon as he turned judgemental and started killing people while my sympathy for his loving family increased exponentially so that I didn't want him to be caught, just to be stopped. I understood he had gone insane and wasn't in rational control of his actions but that didn't forgive him, in my eyes, for putting his worldview above that of others.

But all my sympathy for Jack did come flooding back in the final redemptive chapter which is one of Ramsey's most powerful endings, imo.
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Greg James (Greg_james)
Username: Greg_james

Registered: 04-2011
Posted From: 62.244.179.50
Posted on Friday, August 05, 2011 - 05:01 pm:   

Okay, I've got thoughts on a few of the films discussed here.

The scene in Freaks that I had a problem with was the closing scene where Hans shows remorse for his actions. In the context of the film, I thought the revenge of the circus folk worked fine.

On the subject of Kick Ass, my main problem with the film was how it oscillated from realism to comic book realism and back again by falling prey to as many cliches as it ridiculed. There's a more recent film called Super which I think works a lot better as the violence is consistently horrific and the majority of it is dealt out by the 'hero', The Crimson Bolt, a psychotic born-again Christian played by Rainn Wilson, and he is one of the most disturbing and sympathetic cinematic characters I've seen for a long time. I'd sum it up as the Taxi Driver of superhero films.
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Carolinec (Carolinec)
Username: Carolinec

Registered: 06-2009
Posted From: 92.232.199.129
Posted on Friday, August 05, 2011 - 09:05 pm:   

BTW don't get me wrong re "Freaks" - it's amongst my top ten all-time favourite films.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.150.19.98
Posted on Saturday, August 06, 2011 - 12:26 am:   

At the time the Exorcist was released it was banned in several countries for it's pro-Christian stance...
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.54.138
Posted on Saturday, August 06, 2011 - 02:25 am:   

storming out in affronted rage when things got "blasphemous". To this day she still proclaims that film a work of profound evil...

Poor misguided soul.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Saturday, August 06, 2011 - 02:39 am:   

On American TV, we have the character Archie Bunker from the 70's, who was any variety of racist, bigot, homophobe, xenophobe, etc... and yet, a sympathetic and lovable figure, ultimately, whose blacker traits were - viewed as a whole, encompassing him as a sum total - merely glitches on an otherwise good (but simple-minded) man's soul; an object often of ridicule, but only the gentlest of ridicule, really. Jesus, that is radical! You will never see a character like that again... too subversive, for both sides....
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.157.19.247
Posted on Saturday, August 06, 2011 - 08:17 am:   

This is what I mean; we always feel a speck of morality behind most supposedly 'moral' films. We should be feeling heartened that film and literature are generally 'good' art forms, that our society should realise that if we were bad we would be producing more happily right-wing or 'evil' art, something I really don't think we do.
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Pete_a (Pete_a)
Username: Pete_a

Registered: 07-2011
Posted From: 75.85.10.161
Posted on Saturday, August 06, 2011 - 09:03 am:   

"On American TV, we have the character Archie Bunker"

A pale bowdlerization of the great and appalling Alf Garnett.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.188.49
Posted on Saturday, August 06, 2011 - 09:30 am:   

Yeah, Alf Garnett. I cherish the author's comment in defence of him: "I didn't make Alf Garnett. Society made him."
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.157.19.247
Posted on Saturday, August 06, 2011 - 09:46 am:   

D'oh - I meant 'we always feel a speck of morality behind most supposedly 'IMmoral' films'
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 78.152.193.97
Posted on Saturday, August 06, 2011 - 02:15 pm:   

"I didn't make Alf Garnett. Society made him."

I was never convinced by this. Unlike Rigsby in RISING DAMP, I think that Alf Garnett wasn't made foolish enough, so that bigots could still identify with his rants.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.30.246
Posted on Saturday, August 06, 2011 - 02:43 pm:   

The same may be true of John Horridge, I suppose...
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.188.49
Posted on Saturday, August 06, 2011 - 03:13 pm:   

But, Proto, wouldn't that give the fiction an agenda? Wasn't Johnny Speight simply telling the truth? Should 'art' attempt to add a layer of morally responsible material to effectively manipulate its audience?
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 78.152.202.145
Posted on Saturday, August 06, 2011 - 11:21 pm:   

You're right, an artist doesn't have to curl his material into a cone and bark a message down it like a megaphone but maybe Mr. Speight was being trying to hold onto both ratings and the moral high ground? Or perhaps it's unfair to judge his work by the reaction of some of his audience?

http://www.networkdvd.net/product_info.php?cPath=30&products_id=1098
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.27.151
Posted on Sunday, August 07, 2011 - 01:25 am:   

"The same may be true of John Horridge, I suppose..."

Ramsey, I don't think there's any way round that. If you don't make a delusional character appear simple, people who want to will agree with the character's delusions. That's precisely the reason why I abandoned a novel about neo-fascists in the mid-90s. Either I made them caricatures or some readers would like what they stood for... and others would suspect I was on their side. Only way out of that is to keep well away from their viewpoint.

Anyone here read Derek Marlowe's Echoes of Celandine? Nick Royle recommended it to me. It's a superb noir novel whose narrator is an almost emotionally dead professional assassin. That 'almost' makes for a stunning conclusion.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Sunday, August 07, 2011 - 03:09 am:   

...whose narrator is an almost emotionally dead professional assassin.

Please God, say it's more than that. That rank cliche is one that needs its own emotionally dead professional assassin after it.
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.79.73.213
Posted on Sunday, August 07, 2011 - 05:51 am:   

"Only way out of that is to keep well away from their viewpoint."

Another way out would be for the readers and viewers to mature. We especially need to understand points of view that we don't personally hold, I think.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.28.9
Posted on Sunday, August 07, 2011 - 12:56 pm:   

Craig, it was published in 1970, and I'm not sure the theme was so familiar then, particularly in a British context. It's also a psychological thriller rather than a plot or action based thriller with a psychological twist. There are lots of other reasons why it's unique.

Proto, you're right, but I don't see that argument having much traction with publishers and reviewers. Also, there is a valid counter-argument that the book means what the reader decides it means. Valid but not overwhelming, as five minutes in the snakepit that is Amazon 'reader reviews' will demonstrate.

As readers of popular fiction become more ignorant about literature and life, on their way towards not being readers at all, the author's right to challenge and engage the reader is becoming purely academic. Which is fine if you're content to have only a few hundred readers.

For however long (I'd say a decade at best) remains for popular book publishing, marketing people will continue to patronise writers with increasingly simplistic versions of what 'the reader' thinks and feels.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Sunday, August 07, 2011 - 01:07 pm:   

Joel: I admire the fact you have a strong morality and live by it, but I wonder if a writer can actually take responsibility for their readers' reactions and opinions?

I know it sounds incredible but a Stalinist could still enjoy Orwell.
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Joel (Joel)
Username: Joel

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 2.24.39.66
Posted on Sunday, August 07, 2011 - 01:28 pm:   

"I admire the fact you have a strong morality and live by it"

If only. At best I live by my ideology.

No, a writer can't take responsibility for the reader's response to a text. But up to a point, you have to keep in mind responses that are of a predictable nature and try to make misunderstanding more difficult. Self-interest comes into it as well: you don't want a reputation for being something you're not. Though I wouldn't mind having a reputation for being Jeff Stryker.

I know a Stalinist (and former CP member) who loves Orwell. He insists Animal Farm is about fascism. But only after a few glasses of wine.
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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.50.56
Posted on Sunday, August 07, 2011 - 08:01 pm:   

Fascism the communist way, perhaps? I was in the former DDR a couple of years ago and was profoundly impressed by a visit to the erstwhile Stasi jail. There must have been fifty little offices, all with exactly the same furniture, where interrogations were conducted from morning till evening and sometimes during the night. The detention blocks were no less depressing - comprising cells no higher than 1.20 metres where it was impossible to stand up or sit down, with a wet, slippery floor and no window. As for executions, these were done nazi style: the prisoner was told his picture would be taken and ordered to sit upright, his back and nape pressed to a wall through which he was shot in the head. It was a profound relief to be out of that place. The people in the erstwhile East Sector were friendly enough, but even twenty-odd years after the Wall the area looks depressing beyond belief, with colourless buildings (all similar), dirty streets and ill-kept little parks . . . The smell of poverty and no small residue of fear.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.155.207.87
Posted on Monday, August 08, 2011 - 08:24 am:   

This is what I mean - could there ever be a film made by the bad guys? Could it ever make us see their POV and move us? I suppose what I'm saying is how powerful is art in its ability to persuade?
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Monday, August 08, 2011 - 11:52 am:   

The problem is that nobody actually thinks they are a bad guy. Everybody thinks they are the good guys.

Mind you, I read an amazing novel recently, The Judge and his Hangman by Friedrich Durrenmatt, in which the villain, Gastmann, really is evil and acknowledges the fact he's in the wrong, morally speaking: he commits crimes simply because he's clever enough to get away with them, and to annoy Barlach, the hero of the book.
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Monday, August 08, 2011 - 12:18 pm:   

Going back to my list. Surely 'Triumph Of The Will' & 'The Birth Of A Nation' were made by, and for, the "bad guys"...
So much so that Griffith felt obligated, by accurate charges of racism, to make his next project the apologetically worthy 'Intolerance' (1916).

I wonder can any of us identify the films that are being made today which history will judge similarly reprehensible?

Rhys, must get stuck into those Durrenmatt novels. They sound fascinating.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Monday, August 08, 2011 - 12:52 pm:   

Stevie: I'm already blown away by Durrenmatt. I was genuinely astonished by the plot of The Judge and His Hangman... It's an astoundingly ingenious novel. I'm really looking forward to the next one in that omnibus volume, The Quarry...
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.79.48.95
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 12:57 am:   

(Leaving aside for a moment that the vast majority of unethical acts are committed by the good guys - basically good people who at the time they take their actions lack the self-awareness and/or the ability to fully see the consequences of them.)

I think that the lack of empathy (or even sympathy) that permits one to undertake unethical acts prevents one from also being a good artist. There are very few good artists who are spiritually unevolved.

In a similar way, most comedy is left-wing because by it's nature it's anti-establishment. Right-wing comedians tend to be apolitical.
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Pete_a (Pete_a)
Username: Pete_a

Registered: 07-2011
Posted From: 75.85.10.161
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 01:28 am:   

"there are very few good artists who are spiritually unevolved"

I'm glad you said 'very few' rather than 'none', Proto. Because a movie that's already been mentioned on the thread -- TRIUMPH OF THE WILL -- would be unfortunate proof to the contrary.

I don't think it's possible to see that film without realizing that

1) It's the work of a supremely talented filmmaker, and

2) That talent is (knowingly or un) in the service of something unspeakable.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 07:28 am:   

Anyone who agrees to play William Tell, substituting a gun for the bow-and-arrow, and using an apple on his wife's head as the target, is probably not the most spiritually evolved of persons....
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Kate (Kathleen)
Username: Kathleen

Registered: 09-2009
Posted From: 86.131.51.242
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 07:39 am:   

Beautifully said, Pete! TRIUMPH OF THE WILL is a coldly beautiful film and it's hard not to get caught up in the hope and yes, even beauty of its idealism. Impossible, of course, for a modern viewer to ignore the blatant manipulation and ugly message, but easy to see how infectious the hope and enthusiasm were at the time, how seductive the right kind of imagery can be in the hands of inspired and charismatic people. It's a privileged glimpse inside a cult.
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.79.72.231
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 11:18 am:   

In my previous post I nearly wrote "All exceptions that prove the rule now graciously accepted." Burroughs is particularly opaque and contradictory. By all accounts he was haunted for the rest of his life by that event.

Maybe I'm influenced by the ending of Cronenberg's NAKED LUNCH, which is one of the (in the legitimate use of the word) tragic I've seen in a film.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 11:19 am:   

I hear a hell of a lot about "empathy" and its importance to the creative person (and its importance to anyone who doesn't want to be labelled a sociopath) but... it seems a bit overrated to me. I'll explain why.

Surely "empathy" is fundamentally an egotistical quality? It seems to mean that you can sympathise with people only if you can imagine yourself in their shoes. So really you're feeling sympathy for yourself by proxy.

What about "compassion" instead? Acts of compassion don't need to rely on some bizarre mental identification, as empathy seems to. I know a person who makes a habit of rescuing butterflies caught in cobwebs, beetles stranded in the middle of paths, spiders in the bath, etc. There's no empathy there, none at all. How can there be? We can't psychologically identify with such creatures. But there can be compassion, the principle of ahimsa, doing no harm to any living thing. That seems a lot less egotistical than empathy to me.

Just a few thoughts that I've had for a long time...
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.79.72.231
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 11:21 am:   

Ack. "_most_ tragic"
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.79.72.231
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 11:29 am:   

"There's no empathy there, none at all. How can there be? We can't psychologically identify with such creatures."

A great deal of mythology and literature would vanish if we were unable to project ourselves into the animal kingdom.

Compassion's great. We can have both. Empathy is useful because it paradoxically allows for a more complete understanding of someone else's perspective and has the potential for even greater insight.

Perhaps empathy is an emotional reason to be kind and compassion is an intellectual one. Empathy can generate compassion, but I don't think compassion can generate empathy.

This is more complicated than I thought...
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Stevie Walsh (Stephenw)
Username: Stephenw

Registered: 03-2009
Posted From: 194.32.31.1
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 11:49 am:   

Beautifully put, Rhys. One of the most compassionate novels I have ever read was 'Hunger' by Knut Hamsun. A work of startling bleak beauty.

Yet this was a man who went on to be tainted by the charismatic cult of Nazism - perhaps even influenced by the undeniably brilliant work of art that is 'Triumph Of The Will'.

It is up to us all to show compassion and understanding in every human circumstance. As Kurt Vonnegut's brilliant novel 'Mother Night' was the first brave enough to pronounce... belonging to the Nazi Party in 1930s/40s Germany did not automatically make one a bad person.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 12:04 pm:   

This is why I don't buy the "dehumanise your enemies so you can kill them" excuse for killing... If you have compassion for all living things, dehumanising someone won't make them any 'easier' to kill... Ahimsa should be the guiding principle of our lives.

Secondly (a bit more abstruse this one) if you are full of self-hatred (as so many people are) then empathising with someone else -- identifying yourself with them -- may lead you into treating them worse because they have become yourself on some level and you hate yourself...

Anyone here remember Dune Messiah? The assassin, Scytale, prefers to identify as closely as possible with his victims (because it's easier to kill yourself than anyone else) rather than dehumanise them.

Empathy is the pop-psychology catchword of the moment, but it doesn't convince me, sorry.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.26.56
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 12:08 pm:   

I value clarity above empathy in art. Many years ago my British agent asked me if I liked my characters (with particular reference to The Face That Must Die). I didn't see the need.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.26.56
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 12:11 pm:   

Actually, my last comment is naďve. The "need" was commercial, of course. But then I've never understood why readers feel they have to identify with - indeed, sympathise with - characters in fiction. I certainly don't demand it as a reader.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 12:14 pm:   

That's it exactly, Ramsey! 'Characters' in fiction don't exist anyway... They are just words on a page.

When a reader feels an emotional resonance with a fictional character, he is really feeling a resonance with himself and/or with the author.

There are only two real characters in any work of fiction: the author and the reader.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.188.49
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 12:15 pm:   

True, but I must admit that the fiction I enjoy most has characters who have "hedonic relevance" - are similar to me, if you like.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.188.49
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 12:16 pm:   

>>>There are only two real characters in any work of fiction: the author and the reader.

Both of whom are fictions.

Paradoxically enough for you, Rhys?
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 12:17 pm:   

That's why I'm always bewildered when readers weep at the tragic fates of fictional characters. The fictional characters are the lucky ones -- they don't exist and can't feel pain or suffer.

It's the fictional characters who should be weeping over the fates of us, the readers (who are real and who do suffer!)

I swear that in my next book it is the characters who are going to be feeling sympathy for you and trying to identify with you sitting there on your chair, or standing at the bus stop or whatever, rather than the other way around...
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.188.49
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 12:27 pm:   

>>>When a reader feels an emotional resonance with a fictional character, he is really feeling a resonance with himself and/or with the author.

I think it's all more ineffable than that. I don't think we can categorically describe it. What we cannot say we therefore pass over in silence.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.188.49
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 12:29 pm:   

In other words, these postmodern theorists, with their hermeneutics of suspicion, are terribly positive about a lot of things, aren't they? ;)
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 12:30 pm:   

I ain't passing over nothing in goddam silence!
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 12:37 pm:   

Hermann Utics?

Didn't he used to be in Amon Duul II?
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.188.49
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 12:43 pm:   

Either them or Bay City Rollers.
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Kate (Kathleen)
Username: Kathleen

Registered: 09-2009
Posted From: 86.131.51.242
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 12:55 pm:   

Interesting. I'm an extremely empathic person (sometimes to my cost, says JLP) and I generally do need to empathise with characters to get the full experience out of the fiction. It probably explains why I feel such an affinity with horror, where I can put myself in the victim's place again and again.
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.26.56
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 01:23 pm:   

I should explain that it isn't that I never empathise with characters in fiction - I often do - but that I don't have to. As for being moved by the fate of a character, I often am. In what way is it different from being moved by a work of music? It consists of sounds in the same way characters consist of words on a page.
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Protodroid (Protodroid)
Username: Protodroid

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 78.152.226.119
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 01:42 pm:   

Just to clarify, I wasn't talking about fiction with regard to empathy. Again, with Cronenberg, DEAD RINGERS was a film whose characters I found very difficult to empathise with but was still moved by.

But that's Cronenberg. If Cronenberg was an animal he'd be a chrome scarab.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.188.49
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 01:51 pm:   

Ramsey, would you not say that your very favourite pieces of fiction have hedonic relevance?* I mean, I've always assumed - perhaps incorrectly - that we're most drawn (without being exclusively drawn, as suggested above) to that which reflects our personal experiences.

Prove me wrong, if you like.

*If indeed all well written work cannot be thus characterised.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 80.4.12.3
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 02:01 pm:   

> I'm an extremely empathic person... and I generally do need to empathise with characters to get the full experience out of the fiction.

But Kate, I've already proved that you can't empathise with characters. It's impossible. Those 'characters' don't exist. What you are doing is empathising with yourself (projected as a character) or with the author...

As a favour, could people start opposing my views by disproving them rather than by acting as if I haven't proved them in the first place? Show me that my views are stupid and wrong and that I'm a fool and a twat -- using logic.

Thanks in advance!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.188.49
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 02:17 pm:   

>>>But Kate, I've already proved that you can't empathise with characters. It's impossible. Those 'characters' don't exist. What you are doing is empathising with yourself (projected as a character) or with the author...

This is hardly indisputable, Rhys. It's not quantifiable, either, so it can't be proved. And if it was quantifiable, it couldn't be proved; it could only be supported (from an empirical scientific point of view).

So there.

And if you say you were using the word "proved" in a quicksilver, ironic way, I'm going to kick your arse.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.188.49
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 02:19 pm:   

Logical enough for yez?
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.26.56
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 02:24 pm:   

"Ramsey, would you not say that your very favourite pieces of fiction have hedonic relevance?"

Er - Lolita? Lovecraft? L'Innomable? "The White People"? Ulysses? Dunno...
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 80.4.12.3
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 02:27 pm:   

No. I say it's not empirical. I say it's analytical.

But even if you are right, and everybody else is right and it is possible to empathise with characters (even though they don't exist) I sure as hell have absolutely no intention of ever weeping at anything that befalls any character... like some sort of goddamn sissy.

And even if I did feel like weeping, I wouldn't. And even if I did, I wouldn't admit it.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.188.49
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 02:28 pm:   

Graham Greene - the Catholicism?

Lovecraft - the outsider?

Lolita - er, well, ahem. :-)

Just jamming to your riff, squire.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 80.4.12.3
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 02:28 pm:   

DEATH TO EMPATHY!
LONG LIVE COMPASSION!
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.188.49
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 02:30 pm:   

Can you prove something analytically? I thought one asserted analytical propositions.

Look, I'll fess up now, shall I? When Daphne died in Neighbours, I was in flood of tears.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 80.4.12.3
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 02:32 pm:   

And frankly, one of the things that has gone wrong in modern fiction is that characters always seem to be weeping in it. Characters never used to weep much in books, just every now and then. But these days characters weep all the bloody time. What happened to hitting monsters with machetes? Now characters just weep instead. It's all gone soft, I tell you. Soft!
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Kate (Kathleen)
Username: Kathleen

Registered: 09-2009
Posted From: 86.131.51.242
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 03:37 pm:   

@Rhys: Ah, but perhaps my grip on reality is so tenuous that fictional characters ARE real to me.

I'm afraid I don't have the logic or eloquence to disprove your theory, but I still maintain that I'm empathising with a character - or at least a projection thereof. But it's not necessarily a part of me OR the author. (So there.)

Mmmmmmm.... Cronenberg.... I think my choice of pen name is rather telling, don't you?
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.155.207.87
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 03:38 pm:   

I think even when we empathise with other people we are empathising with ourself. Because, as a creature, we are one thing, we come from the same place. We're just broken off into bits that walk about.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.158.56.31
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 03:42 pm:   

I cried when I read about the death of Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird. I wiped tears away when Rudy died in The Book Thief (even though we'd been told from the start of the book that he would). The ending of Donnie Darko has me sniffing tears away when Mrs Darko waves at the boy across the street. Empathy certainly does exist for fictional characters. Otherwise there'd be no way of getting readers to involve emotionally with the fates of the characters in them.

If we couldn't identify emotionally with fictional characters, horror fiction could never scare us because we'd never feel anything for the people on the page/film.

The very fact that people do cry for characters and feel scared for them is proof that empathy for fictional characters does exist.
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 109.158.56.31
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 03:48 pm:   

“Reading a book is like re-writing it for yourself. You bring to a novel, anything you read, all your experience of the world. You bring your history and you read it in your own terms.” Angela Carter

If this is true I guess you could say that your levels of sympathy/empathy for the fictional may well be proportional to that which you feel/have received in the real world...

Or maybe not
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Carolinec (Carolinec)
Username: Carolinec

Registered: 06-2009
Posted From: 92.232.199.129
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 03:48 pm:   

Well said, Weber! (and I cried buckets at the end of Donnie Darko too *sniff*)

And, surely, writers must empathise with the characters they create too - otherwise how would they create such convincing characters?
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Carolinec (Carolinec)
Username: Carolinec

Registered: 06-2009
Posted From: 92.232.199.129
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 03:49 pm:   

BTW I was responding to Weber's post at 3.42 - we were posting together at 3.48.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.155.207.87
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 03:58 pm:   

Shit - I've just been writing about Donnie Darko.

I was adopted, and felt so much love for my 'mum' that when I met the real one and found she was nothing like the one in my mind I couldn't connect with her, and haven't kept in touch. The imaginary one was so powerful I felt a kind of faith to her.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.155.207.87
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 03:59 pm:   

(felt those feelings for my 'imaginary mum' I must clarify)
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 04:33 pm:   

What is anyone in life but, analogically, degrees of literary depth? You get snatches of people you know, in fragmented scenes, snippets of random explication from which we sketch wholes, and weave stories. Even our closest ones, our lovers and children, are only a series of looking-in-from-the-outside scenes of a character who's wandered, some chapter back, right into the heart of our own novel.

Empathy then is our reaction to a completely convincing character, in a bad spot. We don't feel empathy for pathological liars, nor do we feel empathy for bliss-choked carefree children. But we can feel empathy for a monstrous serial killer who has crippling mother issues....
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Ramsey Campbell (Ramsey)
Username: Ramsey

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 92.8.26.56
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 05:03 pm:   

"If we couldn't identify emotionally with fictional characters, horror fiction could never scare us because we'd never feel anything for the people on the page/film."

Not sure about that, Marc. I never felt much for most of M. R. James's characters (the luckless chap in "A Warning to the Curious" being an exception) but by gum, the spectres terrified me.
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 82.26.188.49
Posted on Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 05:09 pm:   

We can weep over people's life stories in films or books, during which we are given autobiographical material from someone's life. Why does the person have to be real to elicit sympathy? Fiction is the suspension of disbelief, and the disbelief in these cases is to forget that the character is an invention.

Maybe Rhys is just a highly reflexive reader?
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 81.155.207.87
Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - 10:15 am:   

Ramsey, yes we don't need much information to feel for a character or be involved in a situation.
I think you can be moved by a story if there are no characters. But if there are characters who feel badly developed it is difficult to empathise, and if they are we really do. I think it's in our programming.
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John Forth (John)
Username: John

Registered: 05-2008
Posted From: 217.20.16.180
Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - 12:03 pm:   

Hell, I identified emotionally with the dinosaur in Ray Bradbury's The Fog Horn...
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Weber (Weber_gregston)
Username: Weber_gregston

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 194.66.23.11
Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - 12:08 pm:   

The first Bradbury story that made me cry was And There will Come Soft Rains - which is about a robot house winding down. But that's partly because he lets us see the lives of the people that lived there so clearly. It's an amazing piece of writing.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - 01:07 pm:   

What's a reflexive reader? Is that a reader with a greater angle than an acute or obtuse reader?

If I'm reading a book and I suspect that the author is trying to manipulate me into having a particular emotional response, I'll resist that manipulation with all my might! And I'll also do my best to get my own back on the author by deliberately having the opposite emotions to the one he is trying to force on me...

So if I reach a passage of great tragedy I will laugh my head off (at first this is awkward and contrived, but if you keep at it the laughter soon becomes real); or if I encounter a humorous passage I'll get angry or sad or scared (also contrived emotions that can be made authentic with practice)...

The way I see literature is that it's a game, a competition between author and reader. Who can get one over on the other? That's what I enjoy... to lock horns with an author and see who can outdo the other. Sometimes I win; sometimes the author wins.

I most admire those authors who are the best opponents. (Nabokov constantly wrong-foots me, for example...)
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Gary Fry (Gary_fry)
Username: Gary_fry

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 129.11.77.197
Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - 01:12 pm:   

Fair enough. A strong description of the reading experience for you. But sometimes it sounds as if you're trying to say that's how it is for all.
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Rhysaurus (Rhysaurus)
Username: Rhysaurus

Registered: 01-2010
Posted From: 212.219.233.223
Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - 01:14 pm:   

Of course I'm trying to say that's how it is for all -- I'm a cunt.
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Zed (Gary_mc)
Username: Gary_mc

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 217.156.210.82
Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - 02:37 pm:   

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Hubert (Hubert)
Username: Hubert

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.116.57.88
Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - 04:30 pm:   

I wept when Godzilla died. A mighty beast vanquished by sorry little ants.
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Tony (Tony)
Username: Tony

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 178.107.45.122
Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - 06:15 pm:   

Hubert - yes. We have these feelings because abstractly or otherwise they reflect deep truths.
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Craig (Craig)
Username: Craig

Registered: 03-2008
Posted From: 99.126.164.88
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2011 - 06:06 am:   

RED HARVEST, having just read it and it being fresh in my mind, seems like it could qualify as an "immoral" piece of work. Everyone in it is various degrees of lousy, victims and all, including the Continental Op himself. It's not quite a "dystopia" however, it seems, because the novel takes such wicked, non-judgmental glee in its menagerie of fallen souls - this is Hell, long after they've gotten over that whole Heaven thing....

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