Beneath artistic controversy lies a debate surrounding the nature of art: its mimetic powers and its goals.
There are several positions towards these topics. Plato moved from banning artists to approving them under certain institutional conditions. In one of his most famous sayings, Nietzsche insinuated that controversial figures were nothing but a means for strengthening the status quo. Such positions have contributed to restrict a subject that is now regarded as classic.
From exploitations to open treatments of both classic and temporal matters, cinema, as the seventh art, has not avoided controversy.
This is a list of 10 of the most controversial movies from the last five years. It includes movies that extended, either consciously or unconsciously, the vast amount of controversial titles included in modern cinema. In addition, some of the movies listed here explored the possibilities of distribution in alternative platforms, as a result of the controversy surrounding them.
10. Escape from Tomorrow (Randy Moore, 2013)
Set in a surrealistic world, “Escape from Tomorrow” follows Jim (Roy Abramsohn), an unemployed father, as his fragile sanity is challenged by a chance encounter with two underage girls.
“Escape from Tomorrow” is seen more as controversial due to its uncomfortable story. Mostly shot at Walt Disney World and Disneyland without permission, it moved from being compared to films by David Lynch and Roman Polanski, to bringing up several speculations about its chances of surviving an eventual lawsuit from Disney itself. This matter became especially cocnering, due to the movie’s negative depiction of the parks.
Nevertheless, Disney’s strategy to overcome the “Escape from Tomorrow” issue was arguably the best it could take for both parts: they ignored it. Such a course of action stopped the media attention the movie was getting and allowed for the movie’s eventual release.
9. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)
One of the most notable films of 2010, “Black Swan” shows the dark side of major ballet companies. Envy, betrayal, and insane competition are only some of the topics that surround Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman), an ambitious ballerina whose mind begins to break as she obtains the lead role of her company’s next production.
The film’s public and critical acclaim faced several accusations surrounding the legitimacy of Natalie Portman’s Oscar-winning performance.
Dance Magazine’s editor-in-chief Wendy Perron asked about Portman’s double, American Ballet Theater soloist Sarah Lane, and the credit she was given in the movie. As a result, Portman’s credit for her dancing in the film and her dance double’s role was largely speculated. Lane eventually stated that her main interest lied in the defense of ballet as an art that cannot be mastered in a year.
8. The Bunny Game (Adam Rehmeier, 2010)
Leaving no space for redemption or recess, “The Bunny Game” is an extreme but widely criticized improvement to the exploitation subgenre. It focuses on a trucker and a prostitute named Bunny. While she’s just trying to survive another day, the trucker, who is an insane fetishist criminal, is committed to driving her objective to the edge of its proverbial cliff.
Regarded as offensive and misogynist, the film’s brutal and non-apologetic sequences earned it a ban imposition from the British Board of Film Classification. In the United States, it took four years to receive a proper release. Few movies have stressed the artistic merits of “The Bunny Game”. Torture porn, snuff-like and “pointless” are some of the other labels that have made this movie infamous, offered with a statement of “watch it at your own risk.”
7. The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence (Tom Six, 2011)
“The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence” exploits all the extreme elements its quite controversial but ingenious precursor lacked. Openly referential, it follows an alienated loner (Laurence Robert Harvey) who is committed to creating his own 12-person human centipede, after his obsession with the original movie leads him to confuse the boundaries between reality and fiction.
Though regarded as disgusting, Tom Six’s “The Human Centipede: First Sequence” (2009) was celebrated due to its simplicity and originality. On the contrary, the second sequence was largely panned. Six was involved in a frontal attack from the British Board of Film Classification that led to the movie’s eventual 18 certificate after 32 compulsory cuts, including scenes of sexual and graphic depravation.
Edited in Australia and banned in New Zealand, “The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence” had a more favorable distribution in the US, where the considerate IFC Films gave audiences barf bags at the movie’s screening during the Fantastic Fest in Austin and parked an ambulance out front as a gimmick.
6. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011)
Arguably the most conscious facet of Lars von Trier’s so called “Depression Trilogy”, “Melancholia” is an allegoric reconstruction of the topic from the viewpoint of two sisters (Kristen Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg). As the planet Melancholia begins traveling dangerously close to Earth, Justine and Claire’s already fragile relationship gets ultimately challenged.
“Melancholia” became an undeniable critical success. Its dramatic recourses, though predictable, were celebrated as effective along with the graphic beauty that von Trier seemed to pursue since his 2009 film “Antichrist”.
Nevertheless, “Melancholia” was overshadowed, perhaps deliberately, by its always controversial director. When asked about a past statement regarding the Nazi aesthetic, von Trier claimed to have sympathy and comprehension for Hitler and, mockingly, claimed to be a Nazi himself.
As a result, the attention given to “Melancholia” moved toward von Trier’s statements; he was named persona non grata by the Cannes Film Festival and, in spite of a series of apologetic declarations, has shown more caution in press conferences ever since.