Sunday, November 14, 2010

7 Days (2010)

French Title: Les 7 jours du talion

So, I had a chance to watch this movie, but it was lacking any subtitles, and the language is in French. Normally, I would have waited for an opportunity to get subtitles, but I had already settled in to watch the film, and I said "to hell with it". As it turns out, the film was pretty easy to follow anyway. I may have missed the subtler points of the plot, but the basic outline, and the emotions (and motivations) of the characters were all pretty straightforward, particularly considering the basic premise - father of a murdered child abducts the murderer and subjects him to 7 days of brutal revenge torture.

It's a very tense and disturbing film. I don't know what part of it had to do with the fact that I wasn't paying much attention to the dialogue (since I couldn't understand most of it), but I spent a lot of the movie thinking about what I was seeing, the implications of the plot that was being handed to me, and ended up typing up some thoughts during viewing, which I'll share with you here in lieu of a standard review. These thoughts largely deal with the ramifications a movie such as this one has in the larger cultural environment, an issue that leaves me feeling a little cold with movies like this in general, and this one in particular. The film claims not to judge its characters' actions, and this seems to be true, but this is unsettling, because with this kind of behavior, you're left thinking that something ought to be said about it...

Let's begin.

Scene: Residential home. Two parents are speaking with the police. Their young daughter has just gone unexpectedly missing.

This is a terrifying situation. A happy family instantly plunged into anxiety and - if their greatest fears are realized - despair. Worst of all, the missing person is a young girl, a beautiful treasure, a child with her whole life ahead of her. To think of that life taken away, and what's more, to think of what that innocent child may be made to suffer before that, is enough to drive one to madness.

This is a terrifying situation. A nightmare. As an observer, the most reasonable reaction is fear. A strong feeling of repulsion. We must not let this happen. We must do everything in our power to prevent this possibility in our own lives - to our own children. We must protect them - even to the point of stifling them - because, think of the alternative!

This is a reasonable reaction. However, this type of occurrence is fortunately extremely rare. Yes, it is terrible, and exposing ourselves to it can help us learn to take certain precautions to reduce its probability, and better prepare ourselves to deal with it should the worst happen. But dwelling on it, and feeding the fear without restraint, is also dangerous. It is not healthy to live in fear constantly, nor is it healthy to stifle a child's natural growth - and their expanding measure of independence - for fear of what could happen.

When the worst does happen, we think, "what could I have done to prevent it? I should have been more careful." But there's no way to be 100% safe - there is always a risk. When the terrible happens, it is incredibly unfortunate, but it is a sad fact of life that life is not fair. Restricting our freedoms little by little is not a solution. We must learn to take the necessary precautions, yet also learn to know when so-called protections are doing more harm than good.

Scenario: The worst case. Young girl, 8, is abducted. She is raped. And she is killed.

This is a truly heinous crime. This girl was pretty. She was full of life. It sickens me that somebody could do this sort of thing. To anyone, let alone to a child. But what also sickens me is how anyone could think that this sort of thing had anything at all to do with love (the father's revenge seems to suggest this possibility, of love inspiring brutality, and that contributes to my condemnation of his actions - if true, he is as sick as the killer). Or even that it was primarily motivated by sex. Sex does not presuppose violence. The sex drive does not activate a willingness to rape, much less kill. Only a truly twisted individual could commit a crime like this, or an individual affected by extreme circumstances. Granted, a person who seeks out children will have no outlet, and may be driven to desperate actions, but even then, a very small minority will resort to such a perversion of love as this. And those types were bound to be dangerous from the start.

On the other hand, someone for whom children brightens his life, would want to preserve the life of a child, not destroy it. Contribute to her happiness, not her pain. To call this guy a "pedophile rapist" is to miss the boat. This guy is a serial killer, pure and simple. He makes pedophiles look bad, he even makes rapists look bad - most rapists don't kill their victims. You could describe him as a rapist because he rapes his victims, and you could describe him as a pedophile to indicate that the victims he rapes and then kills are children (assuming he picks children to be his victims due to their sexual desirability - otherwise he wouldn't be a "pedophile rapist" but simply a "child rapist"), but it's not the fact that he's a pedophile that sets him apart from the rest of civilized society. It's the fact that he kidnaps, tortures, rapes, and kills children, that makes him a truly loathsome character.

Consider: Vigilantism.

When you take the law into your own hands, you are no longer acting in accordance with the law. You become one with the criminal. We have fair trials because guilt is difficult to ascertain, and because we understand that human emotion does not wait for reason - but that it can be wrong. This is why we do not shoot first, and ask questions later.

I can understand the anger. But I cannot understand the desire to continue the cycle of hatred. To continue the cycle of violence, of sadism, of torture. There is punishment, and then there is wallowing in the very evil that has destroyed you. This is not rising above, this is becoming what you hate and what you fear. This is not vanquishing evil, this is propagating it. For one who has been so hurt by evil, how could you allow it to continue - spurred on by your own hands!

It is one thing to wish, to sentence, to condemn, but another to become the very agent of destruction. There are healthier ways to vent anger.

This is a very sadistic film. Well made, and it successfully transmits the sense of pain, but I cannot recommend it to anyone, it is just too sadistic. Except, perhaps, those who may find themselves in such a situation where they are considering such vigilante action, or feel the need to vent related frustrations. Hopefully, this film will turn you off of any idea of putting such plans into action. And if it doesn't, then I really fear for your well-being (and that of those you may turn your hatred toward). I understand the pain, but there is no justification for sadism of this level. If we allow this sort of thing to occur, no matter how "warranted" we might think it is, then we are no better than the original criminals, and thus we have given up our claim to righteous authority. It is a no-win path to follow. No win for any of us, including those of us who have not yet been victimized. If not for yourself, then for the decency of better humanity. The moment you become one of them, you tip the balance ever so slightly in their favor.

Consider: Violence for entertainment.

This film is torture porn. The popular comparison is the Hostel films. But the Hostel films didn't disturb me as much as this film does. Why? What was Hostel's goal: to disturb, or to entertain? In the case of violence as entertainment - particularly on the gore/horror extreme end of the spectrum (in contrast to PG-rated action movie violence) - the distinction may be vague. In the gorror realm, being disturbed is entertainment. But something about the violence in this movie feels fundamentally more unsettling. It feels more real. It feels more...violent. The violence is deplorable, it is disgusting, there isn't even a fantasy side of me that thinks it is in some way deserving, or in any way pleasing.

In a different story, a major character is tortured to within inches of his life, with the sadistic torturer gaining pleasure from his ability to keep the victim alive, in order to allow maximum savoring of the pain. Then, it was entertainment, a brilliant plot point. Delightfully devilish. Here, it is repulsive.

There, it was a plot point. Here, you are a participant in the torture. The torture is not a device to amplify the cruelty of the villain, it is not a test of endurance for the hero, here it instead amplifies the cruelty of the man you are supposed to be identifying with, and supporting. The man you are supposed to be able to feel sympathy for. And this is truly unsettling.

What is the responsibility for violence in films? There is an argument that desensitization to fantasy violence is a bad thing. Real life violence is horrendous compared to movie violence. Do we have a social responsibility to depict violence as it really is, so that people are truly disgusted by it, and do not glorify it instead? I think there is a place for sensational fantasy violence. I like violence that is more stylistic than realistic. It has an aesthetic quality, and I suppose it's further removed from real violence which is in no way appealing. But what is the purpose of depicting realistic violence in movies? What is the purpose of being disgusted as entertainment? If there is an argument to be made for people being turned off of violence via realistic violence in movies, perhaps this movie is a prime candidate.

I would be at least a little concerned about anyone who enjoyed the violence in this movie. (While still allowing for the fact that it is a fantasy, and not real.)

I don't know what you could possibly do to soothe the grief, other than wait, and be patient. But I know that torturing another human being sadistically, whether they've got it coming or not, is not the answer.

Closing comments:

So, yeah, the guy couldn't stop the girl's injuries from bleeding (in his mind), no matter how many times he tried to wash them. Though, considering his treatment of the other guy, he's not the best guy to go to to stop any kind of pain. You think? And that deer just keeps coming back. Yeah. Revenge doesn't get you anywhere. You're just wallowing in the despair and contributing to the madness. It doesn't help.

And the people who defend the torture in this film. Those are the people that really sicken me. It's amazing, but there are people who defend this man's actions to the letter. I only hope to god their bark is worse than their bite. Or else this is an even darker world than I thought. The irony of it all doesn't make it any easier to swallow.

I just can't rate this. It's a powerful film, but I'm not sure what its intent was, and I can't really recommend it to anyone.

Oh, what the hell.

Rating: For sadists (and emotional masochists) only.


  1. Sounds very interesting... Sounds intense.

    Wasn't there a very vaguely similar film that came out in the US a year or few ago? I remember wanting to see it, the preview was all "What would you do if you're trapped in a house with the people who killed your daughter?" and the dudes like "You're not getting out of here old man!!" and the old man is like "I'm not trying to leave *evil smirk*"

    Wish I knew what movie that was.

  2. I do remember that, but I don't know what movie that was. This is actually a really popular movie plot. 7 Days is Canadian, and I heard there was another movie titled The Tortured, which is American, that also came out this year, and has the same plot. Plus, I found an older movie from 1971, called Inn of the Frightened People, also with the same plot synopsis (almost to the word).

    I thought about watching them all, but at this point I'm thinking I could use a little variety.

    Anyway, it might have been the Last House on the Left remake (original version by Wes Craven), which came out a year ago, and also uses this same plot (the father is also a doctor). I reviewed it briefly (both versions, actually) a year ago on my other blog.