Brief reviews: The Irishman is utterly fabulous, with Al Pacino giving a highly pleasurable performance as Al Pacino on steroids, and Joe Pesci brilliantly understated, but I could imagine getting restless if I'd watched it in the cinema. In Bruges was enjoyable and in its own way emotionally affecting, but the ending was too contrived and I can't shake inexplicably finding Colin Farrell a bit annoying. YWNRH was pretentious nonsense, like a boring music video, made worse because it poked at my very biggest pet hate in films - mumbly dialogue too low in the mix so you have to turn up the volume absurdly loud to hear it.
All that said, the three films formed an interesting sort of triptych on the theme of violence. In the middle, The Irishman, a grand statement on a suitably large canvas, showing us how violence consumes and destroys but also has a way of attracting and even entertaining us - an ambivalent phenomenon. On the left, In Bruges, carefully walking the line between cartoonishness and realism to brilliant and often hilarious effect - a use of violence that primarily amuses us for all its capacity to shock. And on the right, YWNRH, which preaches a message that violence is nasty and brutal, so much so that it denies the audience the opportunity to even see the proper exciting climax that ought to have been brewing. (David Cronenberg made its mirror image in A History of Violence, which knocks spots off it, if you're in the market for a viewing recommendation.)
Of the three of them, The Irishman is like a giant walking among grasshoppers, which is as you would expect from a filmmaker as good as Scorsese. That's because he understands that while a violent society has something sick at its heart, finally a film-maker has to entertain - and that there is nothing illegitimate about violence as entertainment. The violence in The Irishman is tense, exciting, and explosive. The consequences are bad. But the gunplay has you hooked.
Scorsese is too clever to shy away from the fact that violence thrills us. In this sense The Irishman is very similar to A Wolf of Wall Street and indeed Goodfellas - if you don't show the audience why a certain way of life, obnoxious on its face, is actually highly appealing, you're doing them a disservice. The world is much more complex than "Bad guys do bad things" but it's also more complex than "Good people are regrettably forced into violence". Rather, violence has the capacity to terrify but also excite, and that applies across the board.
What does this have to do with D&D? There is nothing worse than getting preachy about violence in games. But you can make it interesting by keeping the message of a film like The Irishman in mind - violence has consequences, but it's also fun. If you can capture the right mix (by making combat both thrilling and terrifying) you are almost certainly doing it right.
"YWNRH was pretentious nonsense, like a boring music video, made worse because it poked at my very biggest pet hate in films - mumbly dialogue too low in the mix so you have to turn up the volume absurdly loud to hear it."ReplyDelete
Haha, you are a grumpy old man.
(Yes, I had the same objection, and have the same general pet peeve.)
Me too and I've hated this since a young age. It's not like they COULDN'T make the dialog louder, or the explosions a bit quieter. I have to ride the damned faders anytime I watch TV in my own living room.Delete
Who are you calling old!!?!!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!??!?Delete
I find it hard to imagine D&D without violence. When it gets preachy, it's more about who you can be violent to in what circumstances, than about violence itself.ReplyDelete
It's reasonable to assume that the PC adventurers are somewhat inured to violence, but I've always tried to more accurately model NPCs reactions to that violence. Your average farmer isn't going be whistling a happy tune 5 mins after a unexpected and vicious goblin attack - they'll be traumatised, probably even scared of the victorious PCs?ReplyDelete
Eh, historically soldiers were bad news for peasants regardless of whether they were doing violence in the vicinity, just due to their constant need for rations and tendency to requisition them. I could see fearing PCs on the same grounds as quite rational.Delete
Reaction to violence probably depends a lot on time and place; your average Saga-era Icelandic farmer's reaction seems more likely to have been "Poor bastard. You're going to pay the weregild, right?" (for human foes) than trauma, after the initial panic wears off. I think we forget sometimes how bloody life was back when; your average farmer had seen children die and had likely butchered livestock. Might also have been subject to compulsory military service, as with the fyrd in England or the leidang in Scandinavia. May well have enjoyed cockfighting (introduced to Greece in 600BC, spread through Rome, first banned in Britain in the 1835), horse-fights (mentioned in Egil's Saga iirc), and other bloodsport (though I readily accept that the vicarious reaction to bloodsport is very different from the panic reaction to interhuman violence). I think 20th/21st century expectations about human reactions to a lot of things probably don't generalize backwards very well.
These are interesting questions. I think unquestionably life back then was more violent and cruel. But at the same time ordinary people probably would be scared of the PCs - it's a good point.Delete
Both thrills and terror come, I reckon, from a real chance of PC death from *any* outbreak of violence. That's why I prefer games like RuneQuest, Into the Odd and The Fantasy Trip, in which death is always a possibility. Even when I was a fairly small child, the notion of 'high-level characters' who are at no risk from a pack of goblins always rubbed me the wrong way. (Goblins kill Boromir after all, and Isildur, and Thorin, and Balin, etc., etc.)ReplyDelete
And, if any combat encounter poses deadly risks, players become somewhat risk-averse - and therefore more likely to try other, more interesting things. It's much more fun when characters try to keep the trolls talking until dawn rather than merely smiting them - and it's more interesting when the PCs try to play off different factions against each other so that they don't have to do the fighting themselves.
That's not to say that fights can't be fun, of course: but unless there's a real risk of death, most of the dramatic tension ebbs away.
Another benefit of this approach is that players become risk-averse because they want to keep hold of their characters' skills and stuff. So, as they advance, they move from being desperadoes to prudent explorers. That seems to me to be preferable to moving from risk-taking desperadoes to superheroes.
Yes, I agree with all of that.Delete
Everybody knows In Bruges is a date film. Birds love it.ReplyDelete