An occasional piece on the trashy movies I like to watch. Over the weekend I watched two movies that must be the precursors to the Hunger Games (a popular book trilogy and now a new movie for those not in the know.) The movies I watched come in a fancy “book” format containing four DVDs. The first is the director’s cut of Battle Royal, a brutal Japanese movie from about 2000. It tells the story, apparently derived from a Japanese book, of a class of highschool freshmen taken to a deserted island and made to fight each other to the death. The third DVD is the sequel: Battle Royale II: Requiem, an even more brutal movie of another class taken to the same island and forced to fight to the death.
This genre of the brutality of the young begun as far as I am concerned with the book we all read as students in the 1960s Lord of the Flies. It tells of a bunch of boys marooned on an island who revert to primordial savagery. Now we have the Hunger Games which tells of a post-America where kids chosen by lottery are forced to fight to the death in an arena for the entertainment of a spoilt Capital city. Scary stuff, particularly when you watch the fundamental right defining the right and what is right.
The two Battle Royale movies are brutal in the extreme with each death lovingly portrayed. The knife in the forehead, the explosion of the necklace blowing off a head, the arrow slowly penetrating a dying body, the guns and scythes cutting and destroying life. You see every detail of the human fear as the reality of death overtakes the student.
I have not yet seen the movie of the Hunger Games—-later this week—but the books are no different, glorying in the horror and fascination of impending death.
I wonder why we read this, why we watch it, why we write about it? Are we no different, no better than the Roman mob at the games where people died for their entertainment and pleasure? Are we simply bored and this stimulates us? Do we do it to probe into the worst that humans can do? To understand why Syria kills with abandon as Russi supports them? And people write glowing reports of investing in Russian mining. Or Canadians flit off to Cuba to enjoy the beauty of the people in an institutionalize prison?
I confess to being clueless. I cannot find the answer in myself or in the writing of this posting. I studied The Lord of the Flies with grim determination—it was South Africa under apartheid and we wondered at the liberal university if this gave insight into the government we hated.
I read the three books of the Hunger Games with avidity. It is well written; it is entertaining; it is intriguing; it is a warning to fight those who think they know best and want to exercise unfettered power; that is what I told myself. But the fascination was deeper and more scary.
Thus too in watching the DVDs of Battle Royale. No culture excuse; no deep understanding; just visceral gut feeling; disgust; hatred; and fear of a society that gives rise to such horrors and the fact that there are just too many of them for this to be a passing fad, an aberration, a deviation.
Please give me your insight.