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Historically there have been two ways of approaching sex related crimes on the seventh art: visually hinting what happened and dwelling on its consequences and implications or expounding on it leaving no room for the imagination and sometimes ending up closer to gore and sophisticated ultra violence than to the cruel and cold reality. Obviously, the amount of reasons for taking those choices is endless: subtlety, elegance, comfort of the viewer, censorship, ignorance, lack of respect or just aesthetic reasons.
However, there are times when the filmmaker succeeds in articulating a scene that portrays a rape (for instance) in a way that feels as close to reality as can be; therefore, the scene is both difficult to watch but effective. Not only in the construction of a successful cinematic moment but in, indeed, making the audience uncomfortable and, ultimately, provoking a thought, a reflection, a reaction.
One of the most famous examples of such can be seen in Gaspar Noé’s Irreversible (2002), during the nine minutes long one shot sequence in which the character played by Monica Bellucci is vaginal and anal raped. Irreversible is a film that relies a lot on an oppressive and disturbing atmosphere achieved by lightning, sound design and performance. It’s part of the tone of the film and of Noe’s trademark. A similar closeness to reality, but in a completely different movie in terms of genre, story and feel, is found in Strangled (Árpad Sopsits, 2016).
Strangled had its UK Premiere at the BFI London Film Festival last week and will have its theatrical release in the British Islands on November 17th. Previously, the film collected nine statuettes in the Hungarian Film Awards 2017 and has premiered in renowned festivals like, Sitges or Parma, amongst others. Based on real events, this psycho-thriller set in post war Hungary (1960s) follows a veteran detective and a young prosecutor on their chase for the truth regarding a series of despicable crimes in a small Hungarian town. Several reviews and synopsis on the film can be found in the internet praising its visual appeal, dark atmosphere or compelling storyline; rightfully so, as the movie successfully delivers a gripping story full of political and social implications.
Nonetheless, one of the most remarkable aspects of Strangled is its approach towards the sexual violence scenes: those being part of the movie but not in a repetitive or abusive way; as it obviously centers in the investigation and the nightmare the wrongly convicted culprit goes through. In any case, returning to the initial point, it is gratifying (in absence of a more accurate concept) to see that rape and sexual related crimes can be shown on screen without being too explicit but not losing an ounce of veracity. As an audience, the viewer goes through a bad time, but that is the intention of the author when shooting the scene; to use it as a tool in order to tell the story and explore all its nuances as well as, hopefully, make a point.
Strangled is the prove that even though every genre and story within it has been told in a thousand different ways, the thousand and one can be as satisfying, striking or disturbing as the first one if done loyally to the core of the story and the demands of the medium in which is told.
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