Friday, March 31, 2006

Art and Censorship

RoadRunner wrote a piece on Tuesday in which he referred to an article by Harry Reid, in which he reviews the film 'Hostel', a piece which provoked me to think about the whole idea of art and censorship. Reid is fully aware of the problems and says so in no uncertain terms, but I think that he goes a little to far when he says:-

"But Shakespeare was an artist of profound seriousness. He was not presenting
pornography; he was not seeking to titillate, or to exploit gullible consumers
and make a lot of money."

because although he does not explicitly say it he is by implication saying that this film, incidentally a film which he has not himself seen, is pornographic. This is a dangerous thing as there are even bigger problems with the whole art and pornagraphy argument than there are in the art and censorship debate, I will not go into that here as I have covered this topic already, see here. Will Howells at No Geek is an Island reviewed the same film on his blog and came to a different conclusion of the film saying that it is:-

"Effectively directed, suitably eerie, and with a satisfying finale, Hostel also has its fair share of gore - although not notably more than other recent horror films. It is a touch more sadistic, but just about justifies this as a necessary part of the plot."

Will also went on to comment on RoadRunners piece:-

Will said... "I reviewed Hostel on my blog the other day. As these things go, it really wasn't that gory, and it was a good piece of film making. If Harry had seen it, he might know that."

Which I think given the circumstances is a very valid comment, and one with which I agree. I cannot make any personal comment about this film as I have not seen it, nor do I have any intention of seeing it, not my sort of film at all.

Anyone who knows me will know that I have little time for censorship, or for any curtailment of the freedom of speech or the freedom of expression; and although Harry Reid says:-
"Freedom of expression is correctly cherished by writers. Furthermore, censorship is something that any liberal society is rightly wary of."
the genearl tenor of his article is that he is in favour of greater censorship in order that such films are not made. Again these are dangerous waters, and such arguments are very similar to the anti-pornography agrument of such as Lord Longford; and see where all of that has led. If such arguments hold sway we will be in a similar position to that of pornography; pornography was banned and what happened? The answer is simple, it was driven undeground where there was no control over it at all, not a wise decision at all; after all is it not better to have things out in the open where they can be controlled, than under the counter where they cannot? This not advocating censorship by the state, but the self censorship of the artist, filmaker, photographer etc. in that the commonsense rules of taste and decency are applied. To go down the road of state censorship would be a folly of immense proportions, because who is to say that any pressure group could not apply pressure and have anything censored; for example, I am sure that the drug companies would have loved to have been able to bury "The Constant Gardener", incidentally a brilliant film, before it could be shown. My final point is that I would not trust any government to censor the arts in any way, especially given how the arts in general have been treated by successive governments; the governments role should not be that of censor, but more as guardian of the freedom of speech, freedom of expression that we should all enjoy, whilst at the same time ensuring that there are protections in place for the innocent and the vulnerable.

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