DIRECTOR: Oliver Stone
NOT A PART OF OUR COLLECTION
May Contain Spoilers!
Will we be adding this to our collection? NO
Following the murderous exploits of fictional Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis), Natural Born Killers is one of the most controversial films ever made.
But where to start with Natural born Killers? Seen as a classic, a well crafted, yet ultra-controversial satire on how the media can help to create serial killers by giving them the attention which they crave, I see it quite differently. Originally penned by Quentin Tarrintino, the script went through significant changes and the final product is one which is attributed to Stone. But he was becoming obsessive about his visual styles, resulting in a film which is directed within an inch its life.
Each shot is different, mixing black and white, animation and a variety of strong colour casts, along with lower difinition TV and 8 or 16mm footage, to create what he calls, “a psychedelic montage” of imagery, all designed to re-enforce the thesis that cynical and irresponsible ratings hungry TV producers are feeding the sub-culture of serial killers, creating a platform for fame in which horrendous acts of violence are heralded.
This is true. I agree with this and the methods in which he employs do work at times. Such as the “I love Mallory” mock sitcom in which Mallory’s first meeting with Mickey is portrayed as a cheesy sitcom, but the subversion of this sequence is scary and very strong. This looks and feels like an 80’s sitcom and this an example of when it works. But the rest of the time, seeing a scene play out in black and white, blue, green and 16mm is very distracting, as is the almost dreamlike moments where TV imagery is appearing through windows and projected onto walls.
It’s hard to explain and you literally have to see it to believe it. On those counts, it works beautifully but I don’t feel that this film knows what it’s doing and this lack of focus damages both styles. It seems to think that it’s Apolypse Now (1979) and maybe it is in a way, but like that, it can be hard to take in the satire when the visuals are so strong and often distracting.
The violence is strong and in many ways, too strong with hyper reality kicking in and a series of unsympathetic characters making it almost impossible to want to buy into the world. This is possibly the most horrific film that I have seen, with a relentless series of evil events taking place, with perverted characters popping out of every nook and cranny almost making Mickey and Mallory less extraordinary.
This was effectively banned in the U.K. for a period, firstly being delayed until 1995 because the BBFC where concerned about a series of copycat murders in the U.S.A. and France and later, home video in 1996 because of the Dunblane Massacre. It would not see the light of a U.K. home video release until 2001, though it was shown on TV in 1997, which was when I first came across this.
To be honest, I’ve never liked it, though I do like Oliver Stone, but even though this was a bold and noble effort shed light on the commercial media and its selfish, destruct nature and consequences to society, its execution is just hap-hazard and all over the place. Not enough focus of the satire and too much on the artistic imagery, this is a case of a director just playing with his toy box and forgetting what game he was supposed to be playing.
And let’s face it, for a film which was trying to satire the commercialisation of evil, Natural Born Killers has plenty of blood on its hands and little broad appeal, there by failing to make its point and not really justifying its existence. May be if this was truer to Tarratino’s original screenplay, it might have been handled differently and being more effectively. My final feelings of this film is that it’s an incredibly nasty piece of film making and not a pleasant watch by any stretch.