please spare me the wurgly bits

THE suzi feay COLUMN

I HAVE been looking vainly for someone to share my disgust at the new Brad Pitt movie, Seven. From the opening scene, where the camera cruises over acres of bloated, discoloured flesh, a corpse's mottled face, seething cockroaches, rotting food and a bucket of vomit, it's the latest and most graphic example of autopsy sleaze.

The film features a highly literate and sophisticated serial killer (yeah, yeah) offing nasty characters who represent the seven deadly sins. Leaving aside the fallacy that people who murder other people are intelligent, cultured and imaginative (here we should silently contemplate the image of Frederick "Grockle" West for a few moments), the movie is not even coherent by its own dim standards. A fattie represents Greed, a drug-dealer Sloth, a prostitute (rather unfairly) is Lust and so on until the "twist" ending makes a nonsense out of even this trumped- up theme.

Copycat, due in the spring, is even worse: the story of a serial killer (you don't say) whose modus operandi keeps changing because it turns out he's doing cover-versions of famous slayers' greatest hits. This sordid spectacle, which looks forward to the happy day when we can graze through autopsy pix on the Internet, mixes fantasy and reality in the most irresponsible way: "Oh, he injected her with Draino! He must be re-enacting the Buono and Bianchi murders." What do its stars, Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter, intelligent, principled actresses both, think they're playing at? Well, Hunter as the female detective does sob: "This job never gets any easier" to a sympathetic male colleague, and Weaver, as the agoraphobic psychiatrist stalked by a thrill-killer, gets enough beatings for her role to count as a convincing portrayal of female masochism, but significantly, neither Siggy nor Holly end up as flayed meat on a table.

Action director Katherine Bigelow recently pointed out that women don't necessarily identify with other women on screen: when we watch Lethal Weapon 2, we're up there with gung-ho Mel rather than pallid Patsy. (To illustrate the point, her latest, Strange Days, features a see-thru'-the- killer's-eyes rape 'n'murder combo - thanks, Katie.) But I hope I'm not the only woman who finds viewing impossibly skewed by a concern for the victims which is so clearly not felt by the film-makers.

I can't help thinking that if film after film portrayed, say, Jews or Koreans being sadistically dispatched, we would all know that something very odd was going on. Stumbling out of a pre-Christmas screening, I remarked to a male critic that I had a problem with a film where, of the four main characters, the women wind up dead and the men are left standing."Well, that's your thing," he drawled dismissively, as if it was simply beneath his notice that one woman was demonised and the other victimised, and that compared with the men they had all the individuality of subway tokens.

Seven has been praised for its restraint, but nothing is left to the imagination. We know what hideous device is used on the prostitute, and how it is introduced into her body. It is seen as restrained because it never portrays the act of murder, only its messy aftermath. This is, of course, perfectly in tune with the times. Ever since Prime Suspect's Jane Tennison, coolly contemplating morgue shots, body horror is the order of the day. Patricia Cornwell serves up great slabs of slice'n'dice fiction, Damien Hirst saws animals in half, Mona Hatoum takes photographs of her insides, and the latest crime series features a sexy pathologist. There is something depressingly materialist about all this. At least when the ancients peered into entrails they were looking into the future.

Why are we so fascinated with wurgly bits? In the Middle Ages, bodies frequently were hacked, racked, pierced, burnt, hanged and ripped apart; presumably because of their belief in the soul, people tended to be both less squeamish about and less horrified by physical destruction. The Faust legend was the apogee of horror: the loss of one's soul. Today, when the afterlife is a myth and being thin the highest spiritual state, to be dead and unsightly must be our greatest terror.

It would be nice to blame health guru Leslie Kenton for all this - in her most philosophical work, Time Alive, she states: "Your body ... is not - as our Greek philosophical inheritance would have us believe - an appendage to the soul. Far from it." But we should look further back, to the Marquis de Sade and his horror of copulation for procreation's sake. (This is why he was such a fan of anal sex - plus it was against nature, which he always enjoyed.) "I learned that this is a world of bodies," he drools in Adrian Mitchell's peerless translation of the Marat/ Sade. Angela Carter pointed out that Sade did a big favour for women with his enthusiasm for contraceptives and clitoral stimulation. But he changed forever the idea that the vagina is the conduit to infinity, that the body is the shelter of the numinous, that we are not just fascinating bags of guts.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
Kristen Stewart and Rupert Sanders were pictured embracing in 2012
people
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
scienceBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth Games
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + ents
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    M&E Construction Planner Solihull

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Car, Healthcare, Pensions: Progressive Recruitment...

    Senior Java Developer

    £45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Leading Sof...

    Chemistry Teacher

    £90 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are looking fo...

    SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

    £50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried