Your imagination fills in the gaps and that makes them infinitely more shocking
Everyone knows that a film made from a book is never quite as good as the original read – there is something that imagination brings that a film can never quite capture.
And it is imagination that this article focuses on. Film as an art form is unique in that it feeds several senses at once, ostensibly sight and sound, and as such our minds don’t have to work too hard to be immersed – the phrase ‘switch your brain off’ when applied to ‘no-brain’ actioners is a perfect example of this fact. And in recent years filmmakers have been pushing the envelope of taste and censorship with regard to this, becoming ever more graphic in their imagery, essentially leaving ‘nothing to the imagination’.
Such images can be disturbing, sickening even, and tend to lead the film towards gratuitous exploitation; there to shock. When I was younger I actively sort out such imagery (Japanese torture-porn films such as the Guinea Pig series, for example) but what I found was that even though it was an awful set of images, the product become not one of revulsion but one of boredom. I was perhaps becoming desensitised but the other reason is that you need to be invested in a film for it to make an impact. One has to employ ones imagination to facilitate this.
As such I thought it a good idea to list my own personal favourite scenes that are powerful and traumatic because you are invested in the film, scenes where you never actually get to see precisely what is going on, i.e. your imagination fills in the gaps and that makes them infinitely more shocking than anything a filmmaker can put on screen. Of course entire films can fall into this category (original Last House on the Left and especially The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) but I thought it more ‘fun’ to list specific scenes, as some of them might surprise.
So, without further ado, here are eight shocking and traumatic scenes that, despite what you may think, you’ve never actually seen.
8. Wizard of Oz – Flying monkeys attack Scarecrow
Having set the rules I am immediately going to break them with this scene, because for a few brief moments you do actually get to see the monkeys attacking the Scarecrow. However, this particular scene has been with me for over forty years such was its effect on a young child. To imagine a main character literally having the stuffing ripped out of him is as traumatic as it gets to a five year old, I can tell you, and even now this scene still gives me the willies.
7. Halloween – Michael’s face
This is a peculiar one as you kind of see what’s going on, but your imagination runs riot with the image to put something there that isn’t. When Laurie fights back against Michael she pulls his mask off revealing what many perceive to be a deformed face underneath. This is simply not true; there is no deformity, it’s perfectly normal, but your imagination (in conjunction with the lighting) sees a monster!
6. Oldboy – Ending revelation
Gotta love a film that doesn’t reveal or spoon feed you answers and leaves it up to the audience to make up their own minds on what they have just seen; the final scene of the UK version of The Descent is a perfect example; however I’ve gone with poor Oh Dae-Su and the sacrifice he makes – your imagination literally runs away with you as you look at his face and have to discover for yourself what it means.
5. The Whistleblower – Raya’s punishment
This is a clear case of less is more. The scene in question was originally far more graphic, but was toned down due to negative feedback on preview screenings and what is left makes it unbelievably powerful (in much the same way as Amy’s rape was when the BBFC intervened in the original Straw Dogs). So, whilst you understand what is happening and can hear the horror, you never actually view the act, but your mind runs wild and the poor girl’s suffering is amplified immeasurably. Made all the more powerful by the competent direction of placing you on the floor with the terrified spectators.
4. Trainspotting – Discovery of the baby
Like The Wizard of Oz, this one is very personal, I also credit this film, and Danny Boyle, for bringing me back to more mainstream films as a source of entertainment, rather than the sick rubbish I had previously been gorging on. Some context: I had recently had my own child when I first saw this film. An outstanding example of how imagination can run away with you: when Sick Boy discovers the baby in the cot; that perfect little prop with its pained expression and full nappy, has your mind wandering into hell – as you imagine the suffering of one so helpless…
3. The Girl Next Door – The mutilation of Meg
This film doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination, but when it counts it really does. After suffering so much humiliation, so much agony and so much horror at the hands of those who were supposed to look after her, poor Meg is tied and helpless and then mutilated with a blow torch as her only salvation watches on, himself helpless – much like we, the audience. By focusing on David’s agony as he watches what is happening to Meg, with all the sounds of the torture, the flame, the screams and the laughter your mind goes wild and your stomach falls; sick, powerful and unforgettable.
2. The Godfather – Carlo’s beating of Connie
A scene that instigates change for the film as it directly leads to the death of a main character – it is also a perfect example of imagination taking over as all you see is a broken bathroom door. The scene has a wonderful set up; the woman on the phone when Connie answers, her reaction and anger as she wildly smashes up her apartment and then Carlo, slipping his belt off his trousers, folding it in two and advancing on her, getting in a couple of licks before Connie locks herself in the bathroom. That damn door. A swift kick the door opens and the camera lingers on it as we hear slap after slap after slap as Connie wails, screams and begs. Another scene that has stayed with me for years and was, in fact, the inspiration for this list.Can you 'imagine' what is number 1?
1. Bullhead – Bruno’s beating of Jacky
Oh. My. God. I fully appreciate this may be far more powerful if you are a man. This is a scene, much like the one above, that is pivotal to the film is one that you don’t actually see what happens. And what is worse it is gut-wrenchingly awful to sit through. Jacky is attacked by a group of boys led by the clearly deranged (mentally ill) Bruno whose strangle hold of authority on his kid's gang is so strong that they are complicit in the savagery of the beating. Filmed from Jacky’s point of view you see what he sees and incredibly your imagination makes you feel what he feels as the bricks come together again, again, again and again. It is a horribly brutal scene, again unforgettable, but you never actually see what happens.
There you have it, my personal ‘favourite’ scenes that have left a lasting impression on me, and that contain imagery that my mind has made up. What about you?
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.