Challenging Censorship How ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ challenges censorship through the artistic aestheticisation of violence. Cult Ashley Barnett This essay is going to discuss how ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ challenges censorship through the artistic aestheticisation of violence. Regulations regarding film release have been in place since the dawn of home entertainment systems, enforcing laws and protocols about what can be viewed and by whom, this caution of who can view certain materials is heightened when talking about films with graphic content such as violence or sex.
Violent films have been an obsession for both aficionado and casual film viewers for many years, horror and violent releases have been highly observed by boards of classification, in order to monitor what is being released to the public, but within recent years, more and more hyper violent films are being made available for general viewing.
Even though clarified by eighteen ratings, some hyper violent flow through to wide audiences due to their artistic aestheticisation of violence, ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ (2003) is a hyper violent film, that has had large commercial success and is also gathered a cult following, producing fan art, comic series and spin offs.
‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’, is one of many films which challenges censorship to push the boundaries of what is acceptable, questioning if the time has come in which audiences can be presented with more and more graphical and taboo subjects and clarified by Francis G.
Couvares, “In our day, battles continue to rage over the representation of sex, violence, crime, ethnicity, and other controversial subjects.. ” (COUVARES, F. (2006) p. 22). ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ tests the means of censorship through its aesthetically pleasing yet slightly sadistic presentation of violence, certain scenes in which if viewed separately seem to just be blood filled slaughter fests that have no true charisma and could be seen to be just as offensive and disturbing as films such as ‘The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ (1974) which was initially banned in Germany and Finland.
On the other hand when viewed as a whole, the films artistic and almost poetic aestheticisation of violence flows with the story and presents the audience with almost a pieces of art in which instead of paint, ‘The Bride”, ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’s main character, uses her enemies blood to paint a picture of revenge and retribution. Methods of presentation that are used to show violence focuses mainly around the idea of making all of the fight/violent scenes flow and be aesthetically pleasing to the audience.
Blood is something that ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ director Quentin Tarantino’s has added his unique style too, something which is very evident in the film, an obviously lighter colour and spurting everywhere like a fountain out of every severed limb. The excessive use of blood in his films has become a trademark for the director and its very well suited to ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’, with the blood playing a role in creating a colourful aesthetic to scenes and settings whilst painting the environment with the Brides emotions.
Tarantino uses blood in his movies to create a sense of the un-realism making sure his films are seen as fantasy, ultimately giving him more freedom in which to spread as much violence as possible. Every blood splatter is used as paint on Tarantino’s specific yet insane canvas of filmmaking, a point which is summed up in ‘Quentin Tarantino and Philosophy: How to Philosophize with a Pair of Pliers and a Blowtorch’, “Nothing ever happens by accident in a Tarantino movie. ” (Greene, R. , & Mohammad, K.
S. (2007). P. 210). The choreography of each fight concentrates on the idea of power, bringing the narrative into each fight. Characters either dominate or are dominated to represent their power and importance to their opponent. The audience has the ability to ‘read’ an choreographed scene rather than just watch for the special effects and violence, for example, the scene in which the Bride and O-Ren Ishii have their final fight, the balance between the two is even until the final strike.
The viewer has the feeling of self physical embrace by watching scenes of severe physical movement, as Gwyn Symonds elaborates on, “…the choreographed fighting body can thrill, amaze, and uplift the viewer by creating a sense of the body liberated from its physicality. ’ (SYMONDS, G. (2012), p. 235). This well thought out and well-presented form of violence adds to the pleasing aesthetics and further engulfs the audience into each scene.
The physical movement of characters is a powerful influence of the entire aesthetics of the film, making action scenes flow and poetically link in violent actions, as people appreciate physical prowess in cinema. Audiences enjoy anything that they cannot see in real life, experiencing things out of their world but excites and shocks audiences, but in the case of ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ the effortless and almost ‘super human’ movement of all the characters provides a elegant embraces on graphic violence.
Quentin Tarantino makes light of this point of there not being any taboo in this style of violent scenes by saying that ‘’ There’s no disgrace in trying to kill people in the coolest way possible”. ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ received the highest rating of classification besides those reserved for hard-core pornography, although the high rating, director Quentin Tarantino stated that children as young as 12 should go and see the film, as they would recognize the difference between real life violence and the out of this world violence of ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’, going onto state that ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ did not take place on Earth as it is so obscure.
In a time, where violent scenes are primarily judged upon their place within the narrative and whether the blood and gore is suited to the chronological plot, rather than the meaning of these violent scenes, as stated in, ‘Interrogating ‘Post-feminism: Gender and the Politics of Popular Culture’, “.. discussions of film violence tend to concentrate less on the theorization or analysis of violence itself…and more on the seemingly legitimacy of its pretense.. ” (TASKER, Y. , & NEGRA, D. (2007). p. 152-153).
Some films violent scenes have later go onto inspire ‘copy-cat killers’, later condemning the cinematic releases to the classification boards vault of films to never be distributed again, for instance ‘Natural Born Killers’ (1994) which inspired various homicides in the US. Kill Bill: Vol 1’ was released fully uncut by then president of the British Board of Film Classification, Quentin Thomas, as he felt that ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ posed no threat of copycat killers as it is “too unreal to be taken seriously”.
This idea of a ‘fantasy world’ setting is the main point made when the film is criticised for its graphic violent content, Steven Dillon adds to the argument talking about how in the film, Uma Thruman’s characters kills a obscene amount of people in a blood filled gore fest but states that the killings spree “are never remotely realistic, but are always ensphered in an impossible fantasy world. ” (DILLON, S. (2006). p . 128. The violence within ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ is seen as justified, as it is responds to Victoria Harbord’s theory that as long as there is a clear difference between the hero and villain, in which the audience can relate too, the violence between the two or more characters can be justified. This is relevant as audiences members can seen as Asbjorn Gronstad explains Harbord’s point; ‘’Victoria Harbord, for instance, points out that violence is deemed acceptable in mainstream films – and even children’s’ films – as long as it takes place within a clearly defined moral setting that contains the protagonist-antagonist polarity. (GRONSTAND, A. (2008), p. 39). This ‘protagonist-antagonist polarity’ is clearly present within ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ as the audience is presented with The Bride (protagonist) and the other members of the ‘Deadly Viper Assassination Squad’ (antagonists), and The Bride’s mission of revenge and retribution, motivates which justify the level of violence towards the antagonists, as the audience side with the protagonist. Another characteristic that fuels the idea that ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ challenges censorship is the aesthetics in which violence is presented.
The use of anime in a scene, in which O-Ren Ishii captures revenge on her parent’s killer, presents a unique style to modern western cinema by exposing the audiences to a style of filmmaking and presentation. With anime’s popularity in the west starting in the early 1980’s with violent and gory tales popular amongst teenage males, anime has found its way into western cinema by portraying the same style of content, thus fixing the idea of anime always representing violent or explicit content when viewed in a western production.
Dani Cavallaro clarifies this point by stating that, “Due to the West’s initially limited exposure to anime, many people have tended to associate this art form exclusively with violent action, pornography and gore. ” (CAVALLARO, D. (2006), p. 19. ) Violence in cinema is much more accepted and understood in this modern age, violence can be passed off as art and expression in their own right.
Still there is the noticeable social difference between films which hold no strong narrative in which violence is just shown for the sake of it and films such as ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ which use violence as a tool in which to present a meaningful and motivated narrative. The glamorisation of violence is something in which is a controversial element in today’s society, argument regarding the realism of violence in cinema and its transferability.
Even films in which aren’t entirely violent have inspired mass homicides through the public being influenced by a characters actions, as seen in the ‘Colorado Dark Knight’ killers, where James Holmes, a crazed fan who was convinced he was ‘The Joker’ shot down 24 people in a cinema screening of ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (2012). Proving that it doesn’t have to be direct exposure to violent scenes which can have a negative effect on the audience, but rather the way it which these scenes are shown to have charisma and social recognition, as Steven J.
Kirsh explains, “Violence becomes glamorized whenever it is presented in an appealing manner, such that it looks ‘cool’. ” (KIRSH, S. J. (2010) p. 218). Concluding the argument that ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ challenges censorship through artistic aestheticisation of violence. There are a few main points that provide evidence towards the argument, most compelling being the idea that ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ takes place in a fantasy world. Making it clear to the audience of the removed reality, taking out any points of relation that could either inspire people to copy what they see on screen or be fully shocked at scenes of extreme violence.
With audience fully understanding the idea of the real and the fantasy, violence can be shown in a way in which is not seen as being as shocking or appalling as perhaps more ‘reality based’ violence. Adding to this separation of the real, the way Tarantino presents blood, in his repertoire. Being a noticeable lighter shade than real blood, again the audience is able to recognise that it is not real, provoking an even larger separation from the real.
With choreography being another element which helps ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’s violence be more acceptable to wider audiences, with each fight scene and violent movement being crafted to inject the viewer with a sense of wonder of what the body can achieve, even though obviously being set in a world with heightened physical abilities. Overall ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ challenges censorship through presenting violence in an artistic and visually thrilling way, holding itself away from reality in order to be able to convey thrilling and captivating imagery of violence fuelled by a mission of revenge and retribution.
Setting itself apart from other films in which showcase violence in what can be seen as disturbing and tasteless, seeming to only place violent scenes within a narrative for the sake of doing so. ‘Kill Bill: Vol 1’ delivers the exiting imagery of hyper-exaggerated violence that cant be experienced in real life, that film fans crave, as Matt Hills sums up when talking about horror films, “ .. horror fans discursively construct the pleasures of horror in relation to their own life stories.. ” (Hills, M. (2005), p. 91. ), whilst also presenting a blood soaked piece of stunning imagery.
Bibliography Cavallaro, D. (2006). The anime art of Hayao Miyazaki. Jefferson, N. C. , McFarland & Co, p. 19. Couvares, F. (2006) Movie Censorship And American Culture. 2nd ed. Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, p. 2. Dillon, S. (2006). The Solaris effect: art & artifice in contemporary American film. Austin, University of Texas Press, p. 128. GRONstad, A. (2008). Transfigurations. Amsterdam, Amsterdam University Press. Hills, M. (2005). The pleasures of horror. New York, Continuum, p. 91. ————————————————-
Top of Form Bottom of Form Kirsh, S. J. (2010). Media and youth: a developmental perspective. Chichester, U. K. , Wiley-Blackwell. Tasker, Y. , & Negra, D. (2007). Interrogating postfeminism: gender and the politics of popular culture. Durham [N. C. ], Duke University Press, p . 152-153. Symonds, G. (2012) Aesthetics of Violence in Contemporary Media. London: Continuum, p. 235. Filmography Kill Bill: Vol 1, 2004. [Film] Directed by Quentin Tarantino. USA: Miramax Films The Dark Knight Rises, 2012. [Film] Directed by Christopher Nolan. USA: Warner Bros.
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