Reacting to Violence as an Audience
Violent films, even of the most basic construction, share the common goal of attracting the attention of viewers in a way that leaves an impression. As viewers become more and more desensitized to images of violence, though, it is more and more difficult for directors to achieve that goal. For Julie Taymor, in her film “Titus,” violence was only a part of the overall impression she wanted to give her audiences. In the film, violence is used to catch the audience’s attention by way of shock value, but also through other factors. With the addition and extension of several scenes, and a focus on modern influence, we as audience members are able to impart our own judgment on the larger themes that coincide with the violence that was written by Shakespeare and interpreted by Taymor. The context and deeper implications of violence direct the focus to the impact of violence on the individual. As a result, the audience is forced to actively participate in the film through personal evaluations of a culturally acquired numbness to violence, and the consequential impact on the way individuals operate within that culture.
Because of her strict adherence to Shakespeare’s text and a largely historical setting, Taymor was able to incorporate new and modern aspects to the film without altering the intention of its original author, instilling her own ideas about violence and its impact. Most notably of these additions is the manipulation of the role of young Lucius. In the film, it is elevated to a level such that he is able to represent society’s reaction to violence, and the profound impact that experiencing violence can have on people, particularly children. Throughout the film, young Lucius undergoes a progression from innocence to passive observer, to finally knowledge and decisive action. When he is first thrown into the world of Titus, he is carried into the colosseum by the clown, tears streaming down his face. He watches the opening scene in stunned awe, much in the same way that audiences, feasibly, first reacted to violence as a form of entertainment. Later, young Lucius is unable to tear his eyes away as Titus goes through the traditional process preceding Alarbus’s murder; he is again found peeking through the window in the scene right before Titus has Aaron cut off his own hand. Lucius’s connection to the violence surrounding Titus in particular is significant because Titus’s violent actions are representative of the pain being done not only to himself and his family, but to Rome and its crumbling regime. If Lucius, then, is the machine for modern interpretation, we can clearly see the link between our own deteriorating ability to experience the horror and fear associated with violence in much the same way that we see young Lucius become desensitized to the maniacal revenge schemes that are played out as the story unfolds.
In the article “Interpreting The Day the Earth Stood Still for Contemporary Film Audiences” written in 2008, the Author, Joshua Pardon, writes about the messages that were sent to the American film audience of 1951 through the film The Day the Earth Stood Still, based on a short story by Harry Bates written in 1940. These messages ranged from topics like the societal costs of atomic technology and ...
Perhaps of most interest with concern to young Lucius’s transformation is the boy’s expanded role in the banquet scene with Titus, Marcus, and Lavinia. Instead of Marcus killing the fly, it is Lucius who does so, delivering the lines, “Alas, my lord, I have but killed a fly” then responding to Titus’s disapproval with, “Pardon me, sir; it was a black ill-favoured fly, / like to the Empress’ Moor; therefore I killed him” (3.2.59-67).
With this act, young Lucius takes his first major stance in the film. The fact that his first show of decisiveness is the spontaneous decision to kill something is indicative of a much larger statement on the ease with which one is able to slip from observer to actor in the case of violence. In fact, even before the dinner scene, little Lucius is shown in the woodcarver’s shop, contemplating the dismembered body parts spread out on the table, finally picking up a set of hands for Lavinia. This additional scene gives us a visual demonstration of the process by which we learn to evaluate what is in front of us; in this case the blatant use of body imagery drives home the contrast of a young boy’s innocence with the violent experiences he faces. Young Lucius’s decision to help his aunt by bringing her the wooden hands is representative of his transformation from bystander to player. This can be considered as a warning to active viewers, who are able to associate themselves with Lucius, and perhaps foresee the negative impulses engineered by the constant themes of violence in film today.
Running head: MEDIA AND VIOLENCE Media and Violence April 16, 2009 Media and Violence Violent content in media has become the issue of the day. From the earliest days of the popular newspapers, magazines, journals, and TV programs there was widespread public concern about violent scenes and episodes. Although there is no direct proof to the assumption that violence in the media causes violence in ...
In order to draw attention to the role an impact of violence in “Titus” and in the media in general, Taymor highlights, and even lengthens, several of the more violent scenes of the play. The heightened violence at times such as the scene surrounding Alarbus’s sacrifice serve to instill a feeling of dread in the audience, proving that even the bloodiest of Shakespeare’s plays must be made more graphic in order to derive a reaction from a modern, desensitized audience. Additionally, Lavinia’s rape scene is drawn out so that it reveals more than the original text. Though the entire rape is offstage in the text, Taymor’s version leaves little to the imagination, graphically displaying the grotesque attitudes of Chiron and Demetrius before the rape and mutilation and the intensity of Lavinia’s struggle with a dispassionate, inhuman Tamora. Even more compelling is the scene following the rape. A point of interest in Shakespeare’s text is the reference to Lavinia’s entrance at the beginning of 2.4 wherein she is described as her hands and tongue having been cut off, and ravished. Taymor chooses to clear up any mystery as to how a woman could appear ravished by showing Chiron and Demetrius shirtless and hurriedly zipping their pants. In this way, audiences are refused the ability to deny the torture that Lavinia has endured. Consequently, it becomes the responsibility of the audience to judge Tamora and her sons, since their guilt is indisputable and their characters never show a human side.
This brings up an interesting point, since Titus, throughout the film, shows latent remorse through his nightmares, even grimacing after killing his son, none of which is written into the original text. Titus’s human side, along with his relation to Lavinia and Lavinia’s constant, pathetic presence, allow viewers to take the side of the Andronici, perhaps even cheering for their revenge to go as planned. For Lavinia’s post-rape scene to inspire a reaction, and for that reaction to be compassion, is such a far cry from the standard interpretation of the play that it deserves to be addressed. The image of Lavinia standing on a tree-stump pedestal in a blood-spattered white dress, with tree branches for hands, her hair flung out in all directions, is a strong image that stays in the minds of viewers. Interestingly enough, the lasting factor of the image is due to not only the cruelty she endured, but the paradoxical beauty in her suffering. In that sense, Taymor is able to expertly capture the fundamental inconsistency found in modern society’s treatment of violence: she pits the visceral reaction of pity against the idea that violence is an acceptable form of entertainment.
Film Violence Do you think there is a case for censoring films more radically than present or is this an infringement of personal liberty? Films are often blamed as an influencing factor in violent crimes, most notably murder. People think that films have influenced a number of killers in high profile cases such as the Jamie Bulger murder, which was linked to 'Childs Play 3' by the press. Another ...
In addition directly assessing violence through graphic scenes and modern characters, “Titus” explores the blurred lines between imagination and reality by integrating several nightmarish sequences. Each of these serves its own role, putting much of Shakespeare’s animal and bodily imagery to use through the incorporation of supernatural visions. Though the visions start out as purely fictional, a turning point in the film is when the heads of Titus’s sons are brought to him in specimen jars along with his hand, revealed by the clown and a little girl on a velvet table inside of a circus-show-type vehicle. When Titus utters his line “When will this fearful slumber have an end?”, Marcus responds, “Thou does not slumber: see thy two sons’ heads, / Thy warlike hand, thy mangled daughter here” (3.1.251-254).
Marcus recounts for him the gruesome condition of the Anronici, reminding Titus and the audience as well, that this dream is not, in fact imagined, but complete reality. The contrast between imagination and reality is a strong one, as it directly applies to audiences, since the film it self can be seen as imaginary, as contrasted with the real lives that people return to after viewing the film. If the reality within the film is an analogy to the reality of the lives of audience members, it is a warning of the danger in mixing the violence of film with one’s own life experiences. By inserting such disturbing sequences of reality in the presence of surreal visions, Taymor forces viewers to judge for themselves what is real and what is imagined, and to comprehend how easily the things of our imagination can become real.
The Essay on The Film, witness, shows the audience a clash of different cultures that come together briefly but cannot mix
It is clear that the clash of the Amish and mainstream American society cannot mix, as shown in the film Witness. Although the cultures meet out of necessity in the film, the relationship between John Book and Rachel Lapp doesn’t eventuate, Eli and Book disagree on their ideas of justice, and the lifestyles of the two different societies are often incompatible. (When Samuel is involved in the ...
Through a careful examination of the role of violence in Taymor’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Titus Andronicus,” we begin to understand the lasting impact that violence has on an audience, and to re-consider our own responsibilities in evaluating and interpreting. At first glance, “Titus” is a gratuitously bloody film about little more than getting back at the people who have wronged you. However, we have seen through the use of imagery, the supernatural, and a clear message concerning the nature and purpose of violence, that the film contains much more than we might have anticipated from a brief overview. If we are to derive one overarching lesson from our careful viewing of “Titus,” it is that the audience member is not a passive witness; he is an active judge of both the film’s actual content and its lasting implications on modern society. In an unexpected twist, one could reach back to the ubiquitous concept of shock value when he considers the film. It is not, however, whether or not he experienced the desired “shock,” that determines his overall experience. Instead, the better question for him to ask of himself is, “Why wasn’t I shocked?”