Is That Art?
This is the question that is always posed to “offensive” media, especially movies. I am certainly no prude and I am not Siskel or Ebert but I do have an opinion on this (surprise!). In my opinion, it really has to do with what the piece is trying to accomplish. Shock for shock’s sake is not art, in my opinion.
Take films such as “The Human Centipede.’ I don’t see what this film – or films like it – would be trying to accomplish. To gross the audience out? What is the point? To show the “doctor’s” madness? Or is it just someone who said, “Oh my GOD, I just thought of the most disgusting thing ever! Let’s make it into a movie and see what people can take”? The “Full Segment” sequel to ‘The Human Centipede’ is apparently even worse and far more graphic. Again, what is the point of it? To shock? Just to shock and nothing more? Then why bother?
Now, I love horror, both in print and visual media and as Stephen King often says, “I am not here to teach you anything. I want to scare you. If you want to learn something, go to school.” However, it’s about how entertaining something is, how emotionally involved in it you can become. It is just too hard to become emotionally involved in films such as this. If there are too many shocking scenes, the audience disconnects in self-defense. If the victims are not presented in a sympathetic way, the audience never connects in the first place.
Such as a piece like ‘A Serbian Film.’ There were just too many shocking and wholly unpleasant things in this movie for people to really enjoy it. And, grotesque or not, the point of a movie is for people to enjoy it. Because people enjoy being scared. They enjoy being made uncomfortable. They even enjoy being shocked. However, this can be easily overdone. If the audience is made too uncomfortable and are unable to recover from it, or are never able to connect with the characters in the first place, the film has failed in it’s intentions and has ceased to be entertaining. It has become just some shocking or disgusting images on the screen. The eyes see it and the mind reacts but it cannot become involved.
Then there are films like the cult “Scrapbook” that are touted by fans as being “Beyond the average movie experience” and “Gritty and real” but which are really just awful films. There is a difference between “gritty and real” and “so boring it’s unbearable” or “looks like it was filmed by 7th graders.” War documentaries are gritty and real but they are not boring and pointless. “Independent film” doesn’t have to mean “sub-quality work accepted.” There are MANY independent filmmakers who do fabulous work. So to answer the question, “Is that art?” my answer is no. Not in regard to these type of films.