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A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange  

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  1. 1. Does "A Clockwork Orange" belong on the AFI list?

    • Yes. Well, don't think about it too long.
      11
    • No! NO! Stop it! Stop it, please! I beg you! This is sin!
      7
  2. 2. Which is the better film?

    • A Clockwork Orange
      3
    • Taxi Driver
      11

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  • Poll closed on 12/07/18 at 08:00 AM

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48 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

OK so here's my defense of the violence of the film. It is a movie about ULTRAVIOLENCE.  There has to be some shockingness in it.  I'm not saying everyone has to like shocking violence, or that even the point of the film is interesting at all (it kind of isn't), but I think it does have to be there.  I don't take this as gratuitous, or purely shock value.  It's there because that's what the characters do.  They can't just be like breaking in and stealing silverware.  They have to be brutal and gross. 

 

11 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

In terms of the movie being about Ultraviolence, my argument has always been that I don’t believe we necessarily need a movie about Ultraviolence. And if we do, I think it can be done better.

This is the crux of every film about bad behavior: is the film endorsing, glorifying, or excusing the behavior, or is it firmly denouncing or condemning the behavior?  And it's 100% an "eye of the beholder" question.

In this case, I mostly lean towards Cameron H.'s side (as well as Amy's side and that of many others here) that the film teeters too closely to glorifying or excusing Alex's violence, particularly the violence towards women.

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I'm not upset in the slightest. We discuss things here!  Let's just get that out of the way for now and forever.  We're not mad at each other, nor offended, even if we disagree on something or what to focus on something someone in particular said.

51 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

My only point is it always seems like it’s men defending the movie, which seems to be the case here. I’m not trying to paint people as “un-woke.”

Well maybe I misread you but you said this:

"I hope I'm not stepping out of line or offending anyone when I say this, but I think there is a certain degree of privilege on display when a person is able to look at those scenes and then casually talk about objectivity, art, shock-value, and morality - especially when they may have been fortunate enough in their lives not to have to undergo the horrors presented within. While this might be a fascinating philosophical game for some, for others, it's a grim reminder of how things have always been, and sadly, continue to be."

Which is what I was referring to by "unwoke" and not having empathy.  I should have used a direct quote, I guess, but you absolutely imply that supporters aren't aware of the horrors of a reality, as a function of their privileges - which is pretty much the definition of 'woke'.

My point is that I don't agree with that. And I think it effectively tries to shut off anyone who disagrees. You're saying explicitly "you can't possibly talk about it as art or morality" when that's exactly what we should be doing.

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32 minutes ago, bleary said:

In this case, I mostly lean towards Cameron H.'s side (as well as Amy's side and that of many others here) that the film teeters too closely to glorifying or excusing Alex's violence, particularly the violence towards women.

Yea for sure. I'm closer to you guys than I may sound.  But I myself wouldn't classify it as "glorifying" because I just don't see how he's anyone's hero. I mean these are bad actions in the film, and doesn't the film make that clear?  Isn't that why they try to cure him?

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1 hour ago, AlmostAGhost said:

  I don't love the movie, as I said, but I do support it as a film and an artwork. I don't think it's fair to paint Clockwork supporters as bros who aren't woke enough and lack empathy, and we can't have a fair discussion about the movie if that's what's happening. 

When I first saw Clockwork, I didn't hate it or even view it with the same lens (hell, at that age I was shocked to learn women still earned less than men). I was introduced to it by a guy, theater major friend who was a huge Kubrick fan, and I do think he viewed it as art and not just bro-core. I do also consider it art. I just can't watch it anymore. There are just certain things I opt out of. 

I wrestle with the necessity of showing ultra-violence in the way Kubrick does. On the one hand, you can't show extreme violence in extremely shocking ways without, well, doing it. But is necessary to linger so long on things? Or to take it to such an extreme? I really don't have an answer for that. I see both AlmostAGhost and Cameron H's side.  

Does the artist's intention matter? If he intends the violence/sex as commentary, does it matter vs. whether he intends it as fantasy/male gaze? Also, I find Kubrick's treatment of the actors in this film really despicable. 

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22 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Yea for sure. I'm closer to you guys than I may sound.  But I myself wouldn't classify it as "glorifying" because I just don't see how he's anyone's hero. I mean these are bad actions in the film, and doesn't the film make that clear?  Isn't that why they try to cure him?

But the people who try to cure him are definitively judged to be wrong (by both the novel and the film) in the way they are portrayed.  And Kubrick's decision to have Alex singing and dancing while he rapes the writer's wife gives that scene a charming and whimsical tone.  I understand that it's meant to contrast with the horror of the act, but it's presented in such a way that I can absolutely see how some people would see Alex as heroic.  Hell, the reason it got "banned" in the UK was because of all the copycat crimes.

2 minutes ago, WatchOutForSnakes said:

Does the artist's intention matter?

I'm inclined to say no.  Every artist's intention is to make a great film, and we obviously don't see all films as great.  So if the artist's intention is to make an anti-violence statement through satirization, and it doesn't come off that way in the film, why shouldn't we criticize the film for achieving the opposite of its intention?

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2 minutes ago, bleary said:

But the people who try to cure him are definitively judged to be wrong

That's true. But I think I read it more "both sides are wrong" and not "government is wrong, thus Alex is right."  EVERYONE is being bad here.  

Focusing down, I think the flaw for me is less the shock/violence, but the statements about violence/morals has become super muddled and it's obviously unclear what's trying to be said.  (None of us are really sure.)  That's not a good thing for a film.  Also, the comedy/irony angles play as ridiculous forms for this message. 

I was going to wonder if the exploration of violence and morals would be better received (by this forum anyway) if it was done in a more serious, less cartoony manner, but I see that Taxi Driver is running away in the poll above so I guess that answers my question!

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2 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Because you're still pointing it out, and using it here to make a claim.

OK so here's my defense of the violence of the film. It is a movie about ULTRAVIOLENCE.  There has to be some shockingness in it.  I'm not saying everyone has to like shocking violence, or that even the point of the film is interesting at all (it kind of isn't), but I think it does have to be there.  I don't take this as gratuitous, or purely shock value.  It's there because that's what the characters do.  They can't just be like breaking in and stealing silverware.  They have to be brutal and gross. 

Now maybe Kubrick went too far, or it is certainly too triggering for a lot of people, but I do think it has to be there in this story.

I have been hesitant to comment, because I only watched the first half of the movie, but one reason I bailed is because of the way "ultraviolence" is represented in this film.  There were so many extended scenes of women being raped, assaulted, and exploited, but the other forms of violence weren't very explicit.  When the bum gets beaten up, it's mostly in the shadow.  The rival gang fight scene seemed really tame - people got beaten up with a stick or a flimsy chain.  Alex kicks the author during the home invasion scene, but it looked really fake to me, but when Alex slaps the author's wife, that looked real.  We don't even see the cat lady's head bashed in after Alex brings down the penis statue on her face.  Where's the brutality, except when there's rape on the screen?  I can accept the "black comedy" angle, like the Singin in the Rain bit or the rival gang members go flying in the air, but then why are the rape scenes so literal?  Are multiple rape scenes really so important to have in this story, while murder is treated with kid gloves?  For me, ACO fails to live up to its promise of ultraviolence.  

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Just because a film has ULTRAVIOLENCE in it, doesn't mean the film is "about" ULTRAVIOLENCE. (I like writing it in all caps every time. ULTRA!!) In this case it isn't, because ultraviolence doesn't *do* anything in the movie except being there for its own sake. It exists in the world at the beginning of the movie, is a feature of the world throughout, and still exists in him at the end. If everything is ULTRA then it's a fancy way of saying that nothing is, and if that's the comment that Kubrick is making it's way too meta and frankly kinda pointless to be expressed in that way. 

It might be a product of its times, it pushed boundaries as much as it could, and filmmakers and audiences today are capable of much more, making "Orange" unsatisfying by comparison. Take a look at the commentary that other movies "about" ULTRAVIOLENCE that are arguably more successful-- Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, Tarantino's Django Unchained, Robert Rodriquez' Sin City or even Game of Thrones...     

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3 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

I'm not upset in the slightest. We discuss things here!  Let's just get that out of the way for now and forever.  We're not mad at each other, nor offended, even if we disagree on something or what to focus on something someone in particular said.

Well maybe I misread you but you said this:

"I hope I'm not stepping out of line or offending anyone when I say this, but I think there is a certain degree of privilege on display when a person is able to look at those scenes and then casually talk about objectivity, art, shock-value, and morality - especially when they may have been fortunate enough in their lives not to have to undergo the horrors presented within. While this might be a fascinating philosophical game for some, for others, it's a grim reminder of how things have always been, and sadly, continue to be."

Which is what I was referring to by "unwoke" and not having empathy.  I should have used a direct quote, I guess, but you absolutely imply that supporters aren't aware of the horrors of a reality, as a function of their privileges - which is pretty much the definition of 'woke'.

My point is that I don't agree with that. And I think it effectively tries to shut off anyone who disagrees. You're saying explicitly "you can't possibly talk about it as art or morality" when that's exactly what we should be doing.

Hmmm...I see what you’re saying and it honestly wasn’t my intention to try and silence anyone. I apologize if that’s how it came off.

However, overall, I still stand by my point. I’m not trying to say that being able to discuss the artistic merits of ACO makes you a sociopath, only that we should recognize that there is a certain level of privilege there. I guess for me, it would be like a group of white people praising and clinically dissecting the racism in DW Griffith’s Birth of a Nation , especially if it seemed like the only people praising it - or, at least, a disproportionate amount of those people praising it - were white. I’m not saying that those people aren’t capable of empathizing while also enjoying whatever else it is they’re getting from it, but it’s not really the best look. At least, not in my opinion.

I feel like I should say something else simply because I might be silencing again. I swear to God, I'm honestly not trying to. I guess I just want to add perspective. I'm not saying anyone needs to be shut up, but I think everyone needs to be able to listen. Say your peace but make room for other voices that might be getting drowned out.

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3 hours ago, bleary said:

I'm inclined to say no.  Every artist's intention is to make a great film, and we obviously don't see all films as great.  So if the artist's intention is to make an anti-violence statement through satirization, and it doesn't come off that way in the film, why shouldn't we criticize the film for achieving the opposite of its intention?

I think it matters in that it can help you determine HOW to read a film and what it's saying. It doesn't completely override everything that winds up on screen, though, and it certainly says nothing about how successful the filmmaker was in delivering on his/her aims. Only we, the viewers, can determine that (and it's going to be subjective for everyone).

I take it as sort of "additional information" that might help my reading. If the additional information flies in the face of whatever I experienced while watching the movie I might disregard it or decide the filmmaker wasn't successful.

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11 hours ago, DannytheWall said:

Someone somewhere said that it was meant to be a comedy? If so, well, that failed. And not because it's not funny or that people didn't laugh. Rather than seeing it as a comedy even in the philosophical sense, I'm thinking it's more of a...  music video?

It's more music video because there doesn't seem much of a narrative, or at least no purpose behind the narrative that's presented. Rather, the intent is more on creating a "theme", both in the sense of an emotional through-line (making the audience deliberately FEEL something) and in the sense of a message or moral (deliberately feeling something ABOUT something.)  All the talk about the shock to the audience, the indictment of society and free will, etc. is testament to that. How many times did Paul and Amy say something like "the film wants you to..." or "the film makes you..." Kind of like a music video -- one that doesn't necessarily have a beginning-middle-end multiple-pointed storyline, but does provide images and sound that present something more singular. Although maybe it's more like a museum piece-- we are meant to stare at it on the wall in its entirety as you mull over a "theme" that is displayed. Hopefully you can blink. 

But that's also why it (and other "art-y" films) are unsatisfying to many, especially in its story. Because we prefer to see a narrative that results in something larger. Philosophically speaking, it's why we tell stories in the larger categories of tragedy and comedy. The twin face masks, one crying one laughing. Every story starts with something wrong with the world, an unsettled status quo, but by the story leading us through death (tragedy) or through coupling/marriage/birth (comedy), it restores to a new if not better status quo. "Orange" begins with the unsettledness, to be sure, but it's difficult to see any movement through death (does Alex even die to his old self? guess not) nor coupling/marriage (not at all) so what's the resolution, where is the redemption? We are left with a world unchanged and displaying themes we already agree with, so why wouldn't someone feel upset that it became a waste of time.  The inner nihilist in us all is tapping his foot, prompting the movie, "and ...?!" (The Inner Nihilist was a sixth character in Pixar's Inside Out but you'll have to see the director's cut.) 

All of that to say, by failing to fit into the purposeful intentions of either comedy or tragedy, it falls into neither, making it just a one-note whine.  

 

I wanted to return to this point. I think this is a good breakdown of how drama traditionally works, for books or movies or plays or whatever: introduce a conflict and then resolve it, usually to some restoration of a new (better) status quo. But what if a movie is deliberately trying to break from that traditional format? What if the point of the work IS to lead the audience to an unexpected conclusion, precisely BECAUSE it provides none of the resolution you describe above? Can that not also be a valid approach?

Are there any works you can think of that you might consider "great" that fail to provide this kind of catharsis? I get that A Clockwork Orange might not be one, given its tone and subject matter. What about Coen Brothers movies? They often "resolve" themselves in a kind of existential quandary, not really restoring anything for the better.

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43 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

Hmmm...I see what you’re saying and it honestly wasn’t my intention to try and silence anyone. I apologize if that’s how it came off.

However, overall, I still stand by my point. I’m not trying to say that being able to discuss the artistic merits of ACO makes you a sociopath, only that we should recognize that there is a certain level of privilege there. I guess for me, it would be like a group of white people praising and clinically dissecting the racism in DW Griffith’s Birth of a Nation , especially if it seemed like the only people praising it - or, at least, a disproportionate amount of those people praising it - were white. I’m not saying that those people aren’t capable of empathizing while also enjoying whatever else it is they’re getting from it, but it’s not really the best look. At least, not in my opinion.

I feel like I should say something else simply because I might be silencing again. I swear to God, I'm honestly not trying to. I guess I just want to add perspective. I'm not saying anyone needs to be shut up, but I think everyone needs to be able to listen. Say your peace but make room for other voices that might be getting drowned out.

I just want to say that I thought this was a good, productive exchange and that I also had some of the objections AlmostAGhost was raising to your earlier line of argument. I think you've explained yourself well here, and I don't really object any longer.

And yes, I'll also stipulate that I totally understand why the actions depicted on screen in A Clockwork Orange might be too much to take (particularly for women who have been subjected to sexual violence or threatened with it). I personally like and appreciate the movie, but for anyone who doesn't want to see such things I would definitely recommend they not watch it. It's just a movie; some things are more important.

(Also, sorry if it seems like I'm spamming here. I just haven't gotten to log in all day and there were a lot of interesting threads started up since I'd been on the forum.)

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17 minutes ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

just want to say that I thought this was a good, productive exchange and that I also had some of the objections AlmostAGhost was raising to your earlier line of argument. I think you've explained yourself well here, and I don't really object any longer.

Ditto - and if anything, just see me as giving a little push to get some elaboration and better clarity I know we're all capable of :)

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6 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Yea for sure. I'm closer to you guys than I may sound.  But I myself wouldn't classify it as "glorifying" because I just don't see how he's anyone's hero. I mean these are bad actions in the film, and doesn't the film make that clear?  Isn't that why they try to cure him?

I feel like it's glorifying because it's unnecessary. You don't need to have an extended scene of gang rape when you can achieve the same effect through implication. It's like Snake said about the shower scene in Psycho. You almost feel the knife stabbing Marion, but you never actually see anything. Another movie scene I've been thinking about is the "What's in the box?" scene in Seven. We never see what's in the box. We don't need to. We already know what's happened and it's absolutely horrifying.

When you actually show it - not only show it, but linger on it - you're treading into exploitation territory. I just feel like when there are other, perhaps better, options available to you - options that you know won't automatically alienate a large portion of your audience - isn't that the better choice in the long run? Unless of course your message - whatever it might be - isn't actually for all people, just some people.

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8 minutes ago, tomspanks said:

So....anyone else excited about Rocky?

I love Rocky, but word on the street is, Paul thinks it's boring. 

I better brew us up a pot of coffee. It's going to be a long week ;)

giphy.gif

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3 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

And yes, I'll also stipulate that I totally understand why the actions depicted on screen in A Clockwork Orange might be too much to take (particularly for women who have been subjected to sexual violence or threatened with it). I personally like and appreciate the movie, but for anyone who doesn't want to see such things I would definitely recommend they not watch it. It's just a movie; some things are more important.

This is something I also wished to express, and can't think of a better way to say it, so I'll just quote it here.

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I'm going to throw this out there, I feel we've been talking a lot about the role and appropriateness of violence in this movie are for its themes.  And we keep referencing its themes a lot, but I think I've only seen one or two posts attempt to spell out its themes.  I think I saw @sycasey 2.0 and one other poster actually try to express what they felt the overall theme/thesis/point of the movie is.  It might not hurt to take a moment to actually articulate something, just to make sure we're actually talking around each other.  Other people first of course ;).  Because it's midnight here and I have work tomorrow.

I've also forgotten to do the list comparisons for both this and Sophie's Choice.  I'll try to get to that tomorrow night.  I might also try to do some of the comparisons of how the different Kubrick films rank compared to this on the different lists (partially because it seems like a lot of us wish a different Kubrick film was here instead of ACO, and partially because I knew off the top of my head, that happens to be more of the case for the BFI list).

If time permits tomorrow, I'll also finish that bullet point list of blood in the movie (for reference) and give some thoughts on it besides just a factual account, but these things do start to eat up time.

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During the bit when Amy & Paul discuss the Nadsat slang used in the film, I was reminded that I always found it interesting how the script (accidentally?) juxtaposes the Russian word "khorosho," which means "good" and its homonym "horrorshow." Also, I think the film is particularly forward thinking in the way Kubrick skewed Alex's interest in Beethoven towards the futuristic by using Wendy Carlos' classical pieces as performed on the very new Moog synthesizer. Classic cinema in so many ways.

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On 12/2/2018 at 5:43 PM, Cameron H. said:

I feel like it's glorifying because it's unnecessary. You don't need to have an extended scene of gang rape when you can achieve the same effect through implication. It's like Snake said about the shower scene in Psycho. You almost feel the knife stabbing Marion, but you never actually see anything. Another movie scene I've been thinking about is the "What's in the box?" scene in Seven. We never see what's in the box. We don't need to. We already know what's happened and it's absolutely horrifying.

When I recently rewatched A Clockwork Orange for this episode, I noticed that Kubrick actually DOESN'T ever show a rape. On a couple of occasions, he shows a long build-up to one, but in each case the woman either gets away before it can happen (the one on the stage, before the first droog brawl) or the camera cuts away from the actual act (the author's wife, after the original home invasion). Also, it's not officially a rape scene but something similar happens when Alex kills the cat lady -- the moment of death is stylized and obscured behind editing, not shown directly.

Just IMO, but I think this is an example of the setup being so meticulous and detailed that it leaves you THINKING you saw it happen. I also won't try to say that this can't be equally traumatic to someone who doesn't wish to see violent rape scenes; indeed, it could be more so. But I do think Kubrick is working similarly to Hitchcock here, making the "anticipation of the bang" seem worse than the "bang."

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On 12/3/2018 at 12:08 AM, ol' eddy wrecks said:

I've also forgotten to do the list comparisons for both this and Sophie's Choice.  I'll try to get to that tomorrow night.  [...]

If time permits tomorrow, I'll also finish that bullet point list of blood in the movie (for reference) and give some thoughts on it besides just a factual account, but these things do start to eat up time.

Or this weekend at the rate my brain and schedule is going.  After everyone else has moved onto discussing Rocky.

3 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

When I recently rewatched A Clockwork Orange for this episode, I noticed that Kubrick actually DOESN'T ever show a rape.

Be careful, you're walking into a semantic minefield here.  Akin to how in German (at least to my understanding), The Trial doesn't refer to just the trial, but all the processes and proceedings that lead up to it. 

Though in the case of the author's wife, before we cut away, had reaction shots, that I interpreted as the beginning of the... I don't know of a way to say this other than, "penetration". I'd have to double-check if it was slowed down for stylized-dramatic effect (I'm not getting to the blood post in this movie, but the short version is, ultimately it doesn't seem like there is much blood in this movie, even for when Alex is injured.  Violence as a whole is conveyed through other means.  Which is relevant here because we get an emphasized reaction shot).

I know you're responding directly to a comparison to seeing a knife go into a body... but, this feels like having to go into uncomfortable detail of what would be considered "showing a rape" (and my memory is inconveniently going sketchy on the details of whatever scenes I've seen in other movies).  I've typed and deleted the start of this thought enough times to come to the conclusion, this is not a good direction for this conversation to be steering in.

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5 hours ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

 Be careful, you're walking into a semantic minefield here

And yet, I may have done the same thing. My brain was just thinking the trauma for the victim most likely doesn't have a division between the two.  I think some of the consequences of the semantics that line of thought has can also be problematic. I tried wading in gingerly on that, but I think I regret the amount of wading in, I did.

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15 hours ago, ol' eddy wrecks said:

Or this weekend at the rate my brain and schedule is going.  After everyone else has moved onto discussing Rocky.

Be careful, you're walking into a semantic minefield here.  Akin to how in German (at least to my understanding), The Trial doesn't refer to just the trial, but all the processes and proceedings that lead up to it. 

Though in the case of the author's wife, before we cut away, had reaction shots, that I interpreted as the beginning of the... I don't know of a way to say this other than, "penetration". I'd have to double-check if it was slowed down for stylized-dramatic effect (I'm not getting to the blood post in this movie, but the short version is, ultimately it doesn't seem like there is much blood in this movie, even for when Alex is injured.  Violence as a whole is conveyed through other means.  Which is relevant here because we get an emphasized reaction shot).

I know you're responding directly to a comparison to seeing a knife go into a body... but, this feels like having to go into uncomfortable detail of what would be considered "showing a rape" (and my memory is inconveniently going sketchy on the details of whatever scenes I've seen in other movies).  I've typed and deleted the start of this thought enough times to come to the conclusion, this is not a good direction for this conversation to be steering in.

Right, which is why I took some time to allow for the fact that even if you don't "literally" see it, that doesn't necessarily invalidate your feelings of trauma from the heavily suggestive imagery -- indeed it may even be worse.

I only went into this analysis because of the comparison to Hitchcock's techniques in the Psycho murder scene, as a way to point out that I think they are technically similar in some ways. Certainly that was also a sequence that elicited emotional reactions in people, even if they didn't "literally" see the knife going in.

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23 minutes ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Certainly that was also a sequence that elicited emotional reactions in people, even if they didn't "literally" see the knife going in.

And I think Se7en is much more disturbing the way it is than if we'd have been shown some Greg Nicotero effect inside the box.

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1 hour ago, bleary said:

And I think Se7en is much more disturbing the way it is than if we'd have been shown some Greg Nicotero effect inside the box.

That's a great example, yeah.

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