There's been a lot of talk about violence in the media, especially with Passion and films like Kill Bill, but I find myself to be relatively immune. But every so often a film comes along that shakes you out of the comfort zone - it makes you realise that it's not just art imitating life, but life itself. Case in point, I watched Battle Royale last night and was faced with the paradox of finding it to be an excellent film, but not really enjoying it.
This also happened with City of God, which I think just maintains its place as most violent film I've ever seen, due to its stark brutality and unyielding objectivity when showing children shooting children. Incidentally, I read somewhere about the scene where there's a group of kids trapped by one of the gang members and he's deciding who to shoot, the kids start crying. Apparently they're very real tears, because the director actually told the kids that one of them really was going to get shot! Not quite sure how ethical that is or how true, but it's a helluva scene.
Battle Royale goes along similar lines, never glamourising the violence just showing it for what it is. The plot is rather simple and probably doesn't really bear examination; a class of Japanese teenagers is put on an island and told they have 3 days to produce a winner - and the winner is the only person who survives. It's sort of like a compressed Lord of the Flies showing how quickly the kids resort to killing each other to try to win, how some commit suicide as they can't face the prospect of killing, or being killed by, friends, some try to escape, some try to attack the system, how trust can break down in a group of friends.
It's brutal - there are 43 members of the class, so that's a lot of killing and thus a lot of characters. Amazingly you do seem to get an insight into most of them thereby adding to the film's effect. They're not just faceless drones as in so many action movies, yet no soon are the characters humanised then they seem to meet their doom.
It's been compared by many to Clockwork Orange, which I cannot opmment on as I have never watched it from beginning to end - but I believe the similarity lies in its potrayal of society and the audience reaction. So, if you're feeling brave, check it out, but be warned, it's not for the faint-hearted.