I have a definite line when it comes to art. I believe that anything goes . . . except if art causes someone to be hurt or killed. Snuff films are not art, and if someone actually gets hurt in the making of art, it has crossed the line. By "someone," I also include animals in there. Anything that lives, really.
I saw a movie recently that deeply troubled me. It's called AMORES PERROS, which translates loosely to "love's a bitch." There's double-meaning in the title, since there are a lot of dogs in this movie. In fact, there are some very realistic depictions of dog fights, and this is what bothers me the most.
I'm not against DEPICTING dog fights. If I did, I'd be a hell of a hypocrite, considering how many violent acts I've depicted in my own fiction. However, filming VERY REAL dog fights is, in my opinion, evil.
AMORES PERROS really blurred the line for me. When I first saw the dog fights in the movie, I could have sworn they were for real. Whenever they showed a dead dog, that dead dog looked dead for real. The corpse wasn't an effect; I could have sworn that the director had really killed a dog so he could get verisimilitude in his scenes. Let's face it, there are a lot of dead dogs in this one. If my immediate impulse was true, the director probably killed about twenty dogs to make this movie. (It's not true. He said he drugged them, as if they'd gone to the vet for an operation. A bit questionable, I think, but not evil.)
I had to stop the movie. I couldn't, in good conscience, continue watching the movie if it was for real. I did some research online, and I wasn't surprised to find that a lot of people had accused the director of animal cruelty. Some critics called him to task for showing dog fights at all, even if they were faked. I don't agree with that. (They also said that the movie didn't call for that kind of thing. It did, actually. You can't have a movie about dog fighting without depicting dogs fighting.)
However, I found some statements from the director and film crew. They insisted the scenes were fake, that the dogs wore protective gear for the shots and the rest of the realism was captured with the magic of editing.
I didn't agree with that, either. Not at first. When I looked back at those scenes, though, I started realizing that yes, that could be the truth. You don't actually see much, and the moments you do are kind of blurry. Do I believe the dogs wanted to attack each other? Yes. Do I think they actually did? Now? No. The director said he took the exact same care with the dogs that he did with filming the car accident scene. My initial reaction was not to believe him, but the more I thought about it, and the more I looked at it, I realized that he was probably right.
It's like the old story about the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. People will swear left and right that they actually saw the meat hook go into the woman's back, but that's the power of imagination and editing. It just didn't happen that way, yet people believe it did.
AMORES PERROS is a beautiful movie. It's different. It's jarring. You can't watch it and not be changed, unless you're a complete asshole, of course. I recommend it, but it's not for people weak of stomach. Nor is it for people who want storybook endings. It's advertised as the PULP FICTION of its generation. Sure enough, it's not told in a linear sequence, but that's all it has in common with the Tarantino masterpiece. It's the AMORES PERROS of its generation. Period.