Monday, February 4, 2013

Beauty That Seduces Us Into Evil

Kidist P. Asrat

I have been on a book project, Mere Culture, for about a year now. Here is a short piece I did on the evil in movies, parading as aesthetics.

The Coen's films have been described as aesthetically superior by most film critics. But the Coen's signature entrapment is making gory blood something to contemplate in terms of form and color. They could be pardoned for this, since after all, we keep forgetting in this age of slickly reconstructed movies, film has always aspired to be an art form.

No Country for old Men is no different, and seduces us into watching the most horrifically violent scenes in the name of aesthetics.

The slow-moving, often still camera, is especially good at defusing anxiety in the midst of mayhem. That technique permeates throughout the film and abets us into watching these scenes. That great film aesthete, Robert Bresson, also constructed his scenes of pathos and nihilism with long, still tableaux, as though beauty would excuse what we saw.

Our 21st century seems immune to violence. We relish on violence in our movies. And film directors need to up the violence ante to fulfill our demands. But now we're subtly entering into the domain of excessive violence, which I think only leads to evil.

No Country for Old Men was released in 2007 near the end of November, anticipating the holiday (Thanksgiving and Christmas) crowd. The film is a raw contrast to what we would expect from these peaceful and joyous seasons, especially Christmas.

As Jesus' imminent death even at his birth (through Herod's decree) anticipated his later death, we should be wary of this violence that presents itself during these holy days. We may be in for an even bigger battle, a war between Good and Evil, in which everyone of us will have to participate. We better chose our side early, and prepare ourselves by fighting the many small battles along the way in anticipation of our imminent, eminent war.

One simple way would be to boycott and renounce films like True Grit. We are, after all, the audience, and voluntarily (so far) either go or not go to such films. Word of mouth, letters to the editor, blog posts, also do go the extra mile. The worst we can do is allow filmmakers like the Coen brothers to think that they can.

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