For a long time violence has been considered sinful and something that should be rejected. However, violence can also be a powerful and positive trigger under certain situation. Taking Debordian pessimism on media image as a point of departure, this thesis aims to justify the critical power of violent image, arguing that the paradox of violence may be the key to rethink ethics and politics of cruel image. The thesis is divided into three chapters, in which I cope with violent image itself, and tried to look into the institution behind it. In chapter one, we discuss capitalistic structure, in chapter two with viewing ethics, and relations between director and the audience in chapter three.
The first chapter focuses on the paradoxes and ambivalence of content, form and Hollywood industry in The Dark Knight Rises in order to see the power and dangers of commercial violent movies. By blurring the boundary between good and evil, hero and villain, the movie prompts the audience to review the complex implications of justice and law. Nevertheless, there are ambivalence and dangers which are embodied in character setting and Hollywood structure.
The second chapter deals with the paradoxes of gazing violence, which explores ethical dilemma of both the director and the audience in Benny’s Video, and considers that the film resists mainstream violent movies by means of traumatic looking and “displeasurable pleasure.” The audience in this film is alienated. In view of Haneke, alienation does not detach the viewers from being affected, but in fact it strengthens the viewers’ awareness. While seeing the crime from a distance and recognizing their scopophilia, the audience is traumatized by ethical dilemma.
The third chapter reconsiders the hierarchical relations among director, spectator and image through the gameness in Funny Games, arguing that Hanekian games destabilize the power relation between image and spectators, in which the interaction brings possibilities of politically radical engagement. Being a parody of Hollywood thrillers, the film mocks on its conventions. By way of emphasizing the absurdity and de-emphasizing the ambiguity, violence is no longer pleasurable in the games between Paul and the family or Haneke and the audience. Instead, violence becomes a provocation through the agency of Paul’s winks, gazes and questions. In this sense, the audience seems to be the victimized masochist under Haneke’s sadistic authority. However, as Paul imposes his power over spectators, audiences are also staring at him. As a result, the power relations change by the audience’s potential resistance. As viewers dare to look at the violence, they start to reconsider their relations with it and then reconfigure their position according to their own understanding. In this case, at the moment we indicate a director to be a sadist, the counterforce of the audience is simultaneously implied.
To sum up, violent image is more than an entertaining presentation. With the paradoxical nature, violence-as-image manifests itself as the beginning of reflections and actions. It is the traumatic encounters that reveal social problems for the audience to develop their own interpretations and take actions. In this sense, violent image may work as a resistance to capitalistic oppressions in both dimensions of cinema and reality.