B L U T G E I L C a s e - T h e M o v i e E n g l i s h D i a l o g u e s
A R T I N J A I L ! ! ! A True Story
T H E B L U T G E I L C A S E
F O T O G A L L E R Y Part I
What Swiss Censors dind't want you to see - and how "average spectators" react to it!
B L O O D B A T H I N U R D O R F ! ! ! T H E P I C S ! !
Performance considered a "threat to security" - and so resulted in "special treatment"!
A r t i c l e 1 3 5 Letter NCFE 10.31.96 Letter NCFE 5.14.96
G o i n g t o P r i s o n - f o r A r t !
M a x i m u m S e c u r i t y - f o r P e r f o r m a n c e !
BLUTGEIL CASE -- Multimedia Live Show
A short summary of
The BLUTGEIL Case
Kaspar B a e c h i :
USEFUL IMAGES: The Enjoyment of Representations
of Violence in Postmodern Fiction.
Lizentiatsarbeit der Philosophischen Fakultät I der Universität Zürich,
Englisches Seminar, Prof. Elisabeth Bronfen, Dezember 1996, 111 pages.
Excerpts from pages 33, 1-3, 70, 4, 3-6.
Typo, Edits, Cuts and additional Titles by SSI.
Censorship is a very old institution and has influenced artistic production and publication at least since the times of the ancient greeks. Interestingly enough, already Plato argued for censorship on the basis of youth protection, mainly in view of Homer's bloodthirsty stories of the gods (Seim 8). Since then censorship has always accompanied artistic and intellectual output, in various forms and for the most various reasons - political, religious, moral etc. It is not possible, to go into a history of censorship here (...). Yet it can be said that the times of censorship are by no means over.
THE FILTHIEST JURY ALIVE
The makers of Blutgeil fell prey to Swiss authorities desperate to find a case on which to apply the new paragraph 135 of the Swiss penal code, a fact openly admitted by the attorney general.
It was argued in court that the film was not only tasteless, but utterly disgusting and hard to beat in its bestiality. Furthermore, the piece of fiction was said not to have any cultural value worth protecting, that the representations of violence were merely an end in themselves, and that it appealed to base instincts (Tages Anzeiger, 7.9.95). Natural Born Killers had to undergo serious cutting in order to qualify for an R-rating in the US. American Psycho was refused by one publisher, earned plenty of negative criticism, and made readers feel guilty once they became aware of what they had read (Tanner 102-103). I would like to pick up on that last point.
Censorship can not be psycholgized in general, too varied are its motivations. When it comes to representations of violence, however, it appears adequate to draw a parallel between internal and external censorship. [...]
REALITY GONE VIDEO!
This paper is about representations of violence in four novels and films of the nineties: American Psycho (1991) by Bret Easton Ellis, True Romance (1994) by Helen Zahavi, Pulp Fiction (1994) by Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers (1994). It will deal with issues of enjoyment of such representations, their censorship, their aesthetic embedding, and to a certain degree with ethical questions concerning violence in fiction.
My claim is that there is a structure at work in the artistic creations chosen for the present purpose that mirrors a specific type of interrelationship between the above mentioned issues. In order to avoid too abstract an explanation of that structure, I will introduce it through an example. What makes that example especially pertinent is that each aspect involved - the violent image, its fictional embedding, the public reception, the authorial intention - comes out with ideal clarity, which allows me not only to outline my project in all brevity, but also to construe an idealized working model of the structure in question. [...]
The example in question is a Swiss video production entitled Blutgeil, a low-budget satire on splatter films. (An English equivalent of the title would be "Blood Frenzy", the original English subtitle is "Zurich Cop Eaters IV". The video was produced in 1993, all the people involved are listed in the credits under a pseudonym). The video was produced by four people frequenting the squatted Wohlgroth factory building in Zuerich.
The youth gathered in and around the Zuerich squatter scene is typically at conflict with the established society, especially with its executive representatives, the police. Violent street-fights have a long tradition in that mode of existence, as can be seen in the uproars of 68, 80, and the demonstrations on the 1st of May. If, from the Wohlgroth-perspective, the "cops" are a bunch of aggressively violent opponents, representing an injust and oppressive system, the youth themselves, although believing to react in a justified way, are often no less violent in their actions, but even more so in their speech. (I was told by the video-makers that they were condemned morally several times by their co-squatters for watching horror- or splatter-movies, but that those same collegues fantasized scenarios similar to those in horror-films when confronting the police in demonstrations.) The authors of Blutgeil therefore decided to produce a video that would confront their entourage with a mirror of their aggressivity.
SHORT SUMMARY OF THE FILM
The film begins with a news-speaker reporting a bomb attack on a police swearing-in ceremony. Most of the participants are said to have been killed by the bomb. Two of the survivors, having decided to revenge their comrades, are searching for a woman believed to have been involved the attack. She and a group of dealers and drug-users are rounded up in one of the lavatories of the Wohlgroth premisses and severely beaten up or even killed. The woman manages to escape, yet she is pursued by the blood-thirsty law-enforcers. Following the woman's trail of blood, they find their way to her home, a squat inhabited by a couple of unwashed, drug-addicted youngsters. Unaware of the approaching danger at first, the inhabitants of the squat hardly react to the appearance of the hurt woman. Yet, when one of them is shot by a policeman, the hunt is opened immediately. In a series of blood-soaked, gruesome acts of violence, the two persecutors are physically attacked and tortured to death, all of which is presented in the classical slasher-style and with the corresponding motives (knife, axe, blood splashing, sadistic enjoyment etc.). The next day (on which all of the former squatter victims have miraculously recovered), a policeman's rear end, stuffed and baked, is consumed by the squatters in a joyful evening meal. The film ends with a knock on the door: "open up, police!"
In spite of the experimental
and satirical character of this short piece of fiction, which would
indeed make it worth a discussion, its fate was sealed from the start.
The police was so eager to lay their hands on the criminal elements suspected to have produced the video that they did not even check the precise location. In consequence, ten heavily armed men raided the wrong house first, seriously threatening a woman with three very young children in the early hours of morning. Furthermore, the search warrant was requested on the basis of an incident in a demonstration in which a man was hurt by a cobble-stone. The woman allegedly having thrown the stone was then said to live in the same place as the video-makers. Once the raid was over, the stone incident was never mentioned again. (Tages Anzeiger, 16.11.94)
Not only was the entire material related to the film confiscated, but also boxes full of other, entirely unrelated material. Subsequently, the video was prohibited, all the seized copies destroyed, and the authors fined [, who did not pay was put to jail for 33 days]. (...) Apart from the serious consequences for the film-makers, who are unable to appeal to a higher court for financial reasons, the case could also have serious effects on future art production.
The prohibition of the film under the pretext of protecting the public from disgusting horror images denying human dignity is quite overtly an enforcement of a new Swiss law on censorship. The attorney general Markus Hohl, who pursued the case after an initial acquittal, declared in district court that he wanted to stage a pilot case for the new paragraph 135 of the Swiss penal code, in spite of the admitted minor importance of Blutgeil (Tages-Anzeiger, 7.9.1995). The verdict and the shaky argument supporting it (culture may not be negative or destructive) have been criticized internationally.
GOING TO JAIL FOR ART!
A list of letters collected by the authors of Blutgeil includes Dr. Dietrich Kuhlbrodt, an independent film expert in Hamburg, [Dr.] Roland Seim of the bureau for culture in Münster, Prof. Dr. Christine N. Brinkmann (film sciences, university of Zurich), H.R. Giger (artist, Zurich), John Waters (director, Baltimore), Samir (director, Zurich), Jörg Buttgereit (director, Berlin), and several others. All of them oppose the verdict more or less vehemently. John Waters brought the message to the point in his brief note: "To the authorities - leave these films alone! Don't you know art when you see it?"
The executive director of the US-based National Campaign for Freedom of Expression, David Mendoza, makes clear in a letter to the Swiss authorities that "politically motivated restrictions on artistic content have no place in a democratic society". [...]
If one follows the suspicion that the critique of media violence might only be acceptable if it is half-hearted, then it seems reasonable to ask what the other half of the heart is filled with. The person to provide the answer is Bruno Kistler, the spokesman of Zuerich police, who demonstrated plausibly that even the most ardent defenders of media purity can fall prey to their own unacklowledged fascination with violence. [...]
DOUBLE MORAL AT WORK
An especially savoury detail of this case, namely that parts of the video were shown to high-school students by the spokesman of Zuerich police Bruno Kistler during a media week, points to the double moral at work here. The students refused to watch what Kistler wanted to show them for "deterrence", and their subsequent publication of the illegal screening lead to a charge against Kistler himself. It was quickly dropped again, as might be expected (Tages-Anzeiger, 7.9.1995).
IT'S THE LAW!
The faux-pas by police spokesman [Bruno] Kistler reveals the law's intimate connection or even fascination with violence, but also that same law's repressive potential which strikes back if provoked by "arbitrary" representations of violence. Were the piece so bad or dangerous to the sensitive minds of children, how could the law itself face a group of adolescents with it? [...]
TRIALS & CENSORSHIP PART 3: ART MUST BE POSITIVE!!
One of the most problematic points of Blutgeil is that due to its lack of subtelty and its obvious reference to a genre that is generally treated as low , it cannot be canonized in the categories of high art. Within conservative views of art, as applied to Blutgeil in court, this means that it is no art at all and therefore does not deserve the protection of artistic freedom. Neither does it qualify for serious critical or theoretical efforts in that line of thought.
The following argument by attorney general Hohl supporting the verdict was reported by Journalist Daniel Suter: "The display of violence in Blutgeil is very well penentrantly cruel and indeed without any redeeming cultural value in the sense of the law. In this matter, the taste of the majority is authoritative."
FILMMAKERS CLOSE TO THE EDGE OF THE PATHOLOGICAL!!!!!
"For me, it is essential that art per se may not be negative nor destructive", was his credo. And: "In my opinion, someone producing such films stands close to the edge of the pathological." (...) Member of the supreme court Referent Hans Mathys judged two scenes depicting police officers getting dismembered "not only bad taste, but utterly disgusting" and "hard to beat in their crude bestiality".
The whole film would lack any redeeming cultural value, the representations of violence were merely an end in themselves and would appeal to the lower instincts.The other judges, Mireille Schaffitz and President Remo Bornatico, agreed. (Tages Anzeiger, 7.9.95)
One of the safest means to avoid condemnation is to embed violence in what may be called a moral-didactic embedding, one of the unsafest to present violence in an enjoyable fashion. (The term is borrowed from Nieraad's excellent study of violent literature.) The video from the anarchist scene of Zuerich has chosen the latter option, and paid for it. It makes no attempt at binding its aggressive potential with a raised index finger. Instead, it makes a feast of violence, a frenzy with strong sexual undertones, culminating in a cannibalistic ritual that takes the form of a happy evening meal.( German geil, although used in the sense of cool, must really be translated as horny and clearly refers to sexual excitement. This is fitting, given the interwovenness of sexuality and aggression wich will be discussed below.)
PARODY, AMBIVALENCE, ESTRANGEMENT & CRITICAL DISTANCE
A point that can be found in most of the defenses of Blutgeil is a reference to its parodistic nature. If, strictly speaking, nothing of it is meant seriously, then the violence the video shows cannot be taken at face value. The squatters as well as the policemen are depicted as extremely flat characters. The only properties they have are grossly exaggerated clichés, derived from the simplified views of the respective antagonist. By the same token, the underlying genre of the splatter-film is equally parodied. Although intertextual references are typical for, although not unique to the postmodern age, parody in the present case is only a first step toward a more global inconsistency of fictional space as such. (...)
What is usually considered a necessary condition of fiction, namely the immersion of its consumer in the space or reality it creates, is partly withheld by self-subverting or self-breaking devices. In the present example, the shaky and amateurish quality of the filming, the exaggerated, "unreal" nature of the characters as well as the parodistic elements are a serious hindrance to an effect of vraisemblance. Instead of dismissing this effect as a consequence of a low budget, one can draw a parallel to the formalist conception of estrangement: "art estranges and undermines conventional sign-systems, compels our attention to the material process of language itself, and so renews our perceptions" (Eagleton 99-100). Similarly, the kind of violent fiction discussed here estranges from fiction itself by pointing to its own material nature as fiction. [...]
However, there is a further feature in Blutgeil that makes it plausible that the film wants to keep its consumer at a critical distance. If a foregrounding of the aggressor and his or her enjoyment of violence is responsible for a similar temptation of enjoyment in the spectator - an effect furthered by the near-negligence of the victim's suffering -, then the difficult identification with that aggressor introduces a prohibitive element. Again as a result of their flat, cliché-like and unpleasant depiction, the characters in the video offer little surface for a consistent positive identification. The state thus produced is one of ambivalence. Given the filmmakers' declared intention to provoke a discussion on the violent potential present but unacknowledged in their own ranks, this ambivalence-producing structure is an integral part of the work's semiotic devices.
BASIC STRUCTURE OF THE VIOLENT
Taken together,the features observable in Blutgeil - extreme and explicit representations of violence, the symptomatic rather than the literary quality, the absence of a moral-didactic embedding, the manifest enjoyment of violence, its parodistic nature and the ambivalent point of view the reader is offered - form the basic structure or template of a construct that shall carry the working title "the violent".
This is to suggest that all the disparate elements listed above somehow work together in order to achieve a predetermined effect. Translated into functional terms, a violent is a work of fiction that makes possible the reading of representations of violence in what one might call, with a Lacanian undertone, enjoyable terms, a state that is on the limit between pleasure and pain, fascination and fear, involvement and refusal.
The violent image itself is presented in an explicit or even emphasized way, and access to it is cleared from moral obstacles. The violent is thus designed to trigger an unnegated desire in its consumer for the aggressivity it provides the signifiers for. Yet, the invitation to voyeurism appears to serve as a bait. Having triggered the overt appearance of desire, the violent makes itself an unstable container and thus places desire outside the sphere of mere fiction.
CLOSER TO CONSCIOUSNESS
Read in that way, violents
seem to be directed against the repression of aggressive energies as
such. More accurately, they may be used to shift repressed aggressivity
closer to consciousness. They propose fictional space as a place
where such energies can find their signifers without hiding the fact
that aggression belongs to the real world.
3 3 ' 3 3 3 H i t s ! ! ! !
S w i t z e r l a n d l e a d i n g ! !
Thanks, dear Police!!!
T o t h e S t a t i s t i c s
POLICE RAID AT SSI-MEDIA!!!
C L I C K H E R E !
N e w ! ! ! Q u a l i t y s h i r t s & h o o d s !
g l o w i n g i n t h e d a r k / r a d i a n t i n U V !
POLICE OFFICERS HEAVILY WORKING!!!
Part 1: W I T H C H A I N S A W S !
Part 2: W I T H O P E N F L A P The confiscated photos!
Part 3: S U N D A Y M E S S E N G E R S E R V I C E !
W i t h t
h e w e a p o n s o f c u l t u r e
. . .