Audience members at the Australian premiere of historical revenge thriller The Nightingale reportedly walked out after just 20 minutes over scenes of violence against women and children.
The Jennifer Kent-directed movie, which is set in the 18th century, tells the story of 21-year-old Irish convict Clare (Aisling Franciosi) who travels through the Tasmanian bush seeking revenge against the British officer and his soldiers who committed atrocities against her family – assisted by an indigenous guide.
It was screened as part of the Sydney Film Festival to a sold-out audience of more than 1,000 people at the Ritz cinema.
Several audience members shared their thoughts about the movie on Twitter after the screening:
Critics have also been negative in their assessment of the sexual and physical violence portrayed in the film.
Writing for the New York Post, reviewer Johnny Oleksinski said: “Vacuum-packing a non-stop supply of rapes, deaths and beatings into more than two hours is needlessly punishing and comes at the expense of character and story. Constantly having to shield your eyes from horrible imagery - as the Sundance audience was - would seem to defy the whole point of watching a movie.”
FilmEra critic Chris Shortt called The Nightingale a “gruelling and grossly offensive misfire”.
“(Director) Kent subjects us to a disturbing frequency of rape scenes to the extent that it soon stops feeling like a jolt of brutal honesty and quickly becomes indulgent,” he wrote.
“If we weren’t aware of the historical atrocities committed by British soldiers across the colonies already, we certainly are by the fourth rape scene. What, then, of the fifth or the sixth?”
Kent, who previously directed the horror film The Babadook, said herself that the film was difficult to make, telling First Showing: “It really pushed me to my absolute limits as a human being. Anyone who was on that set will tell you.”
In a Q&A, she added that she said she “totally understands” why people would react negatively to those scenes and they had “every right” — but added she felt like she “needed” to include scenes of such horror so as not to soften the brutality of that period in history.
She said filming the scenes was “heartbreaking”, and she cried throughout the process, all the way through to post-production.
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