Huntington Filmmaker Stresses Realistic, Bloody Violence Unnecessary if You Have Good Story

Updated 7 years ago by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
Huntington Filmmaker Stresses Realistic, Bloody Violence Unnecessary if You Have Good Story

Three time regional Emmy-award winning documentary producer, Deborah Novak, joined an apparent minority Sunday afternoon, July 29, by joining famed director Peter Bogdanovich expressing strong opposition to the necessity for movie violence.

“I’m against the common formula of making teens go ‘gross,’” the Marshall University graduate and co-producer of “Ashes to Glory,” “Cam Henderson,” and  “Steven Caras:  See Them Dance” told HNN.

“It’s degrading [and] if it’s not integral to the plot, it’s not necessary.”

Trained by famed acting coach Stella Adler, Ms. Novak recalled that her teacher said when you go on the platform [stage or screen] your performance has the ability to “uplift the audience or denigrate the audience,” adding “why do we want to show people’s throats getting graphically cut?” 

Novak's  belief that extreme depictions of violence has gone over the edge compares with Bogdanovich’s views in the Hollywood Reporter.  Himself a former  Adler student, the famed teacher of such stars as Robert DeNiro, Martin Sheen, and Warren Beatty, focused on imagination .and memory techniques for character development. She took no position on its roots.

“Violence on the screen has increased tenfold , it’s pornographic. Video games are violent too. It’s all out of control. I can see where it would drive somebody crazy,” Bogdanovich said in the Reporter interview.

He continued with a reference to Fritz Lang’s “M,” which is about a child murder.

“There are other ways to do it without showing people getting blown up. Lang  didn't show the murder of the child. The child is playing with a rubber ball and a balloon. When the killer takes her behind the bushes, we see the ball roll out from the bushes. And then he cuts to the balloon flying up into the sky. Everybody who sees it feels a different kind of chill up their back, a horrible feeling. So this argument that you have to have violence shown in gory details is not true. It's much more artistic to show it in a different way.

“Today, there's a general numbing of the audience. There's too much murder and killing. You make people insensitive by showing it all the time. The body count in pictures is huge. It numbs the audience into thinking it's not so terrible. Back in the '70s, I asked Orson Welles what he thought was happening to pictures, and he said, 'We're brutalizing the audience. We're going to end up like the Roman circus, live at the Coliseum.' The respect for human life seems to be eroding,” Bogdanovich told the Hollywood Reporter.

His imagination comparison is similar Novak’s violence perspective which analyzed its use from Plato (we imitate what we see) to Aristotle (graphic depictions purge our thoughts). For instance, she referred to the 1939 dramatic radio panic by Orson Welles “War of the Worlds.”

“People did not see Martians killing people , [yet] they rioted and killed themselves.” Describing terror as “scariness that develops in the mind,” she said, realistic violence is unnecessary “if you have good writing and narratives.”

She explained “there are so many stories waiting to be told without violence. But violence sells and that’s what gets made.”

Referring to “cinema is an art form” and “movies are a commercial venture,” she agreed that “Europe is not quite as up tight as we are” regarding  sexual content and “Europe has strict gun control laws.”  Most of  their films tell personal stories more intimately, so that use of graphic imagery fits the context of the production, it’s seldom gratuitous.

“They have more interpersonal content, characters and plot that were relished in the 30s and 40s” in American filmmaking. For instance, the shootout in “High Noon” is essential to the story.

 Violent films impact how others perceive America. Novak told of an English friend preparing for a visit to the United States. “She thought  “we were gun wielding psychopaths. Not everyone has a gun or is a maniac.”

Although Stella Adler took no position on art inciting audience actions, Novak points to  “individuals such as Ted Bundy who admitted graphic pornography encouraged his deviant and murderous behavior. Plato is correct. In others, Aristotle’s theory hold true. There are enough instances of imitative behavior to cause concern. Something must be done.”

Bogdanovich admitted that these are minority opinions in Hollywood. Courts of law have previously ruled that content does not make a producer, distributor, cinema owner, director or actor liable.

The answer actually lies with audiences. Is extreme violence necessary to sell tickets to a specific flick? You vote yes or no when you go see the show or purchase the DVD.

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