Moviegoers Have Their Say on Stone

`Natural Born Killers' raises the issue of whether an artfully violent film lampoons - or glorifies - mayhem

DIRECTOR Oliver Stone's controversial new movie, ``Natural Born Killers,'' dares to say the media love violence. In an onslaught of brilliantly conceived images, Mr. Stone follows a young couple named Mickey and Mallory on a vicious killing spree. The film was No. 1 at the box office when it opened last weekend. It received a strongly negative review in the Aug. 26 Monitor.

The news media portrayed in the film - TV in particular - feed off the grisly murders committed by the pair. Stone has said that the film is satire, merely an irreverent look at violence in American society. He insists that some of his other films, such as ``Scarface'' and ``Platoon,'' are far more violent than ``Natural Born Killers.'' He says those films were realistic, while his current one is not. ``There is not a gruesome scene in the film,'' he told the New York Times.

Some critics argue that by attacking media sensationalism, Stone is actually fueling it. As a different way of approaching the issues raised in ``Natural Born Killers,'' the Monitor offered to buy tickets for a number of people to see it and discuss the content afterward. Several people declined, but four agreed to view the film. The following are excerpts from those interviews by staff writer David Holmstrom. The Monitor also invites readers to send in their comments. Evan Mallett, journalist, songwriter

The native Bostonian, who is 26, goes to movies regularly.

IF Oliver Stone were sitting in front of me, I would tell him that I respect his work, and tell him this film was brilliant. It is a refreshing change from his other heavier films because it is full of satire. But I would also say, `Are you sure you know what you are doing?'

It's such dangerous ground, playing with the concept of mass murder; it's about as dangerous as possible for those who are complete sponges for media hype ... because the movie really glamorized the whole notion of going out and splattering people.

But that's the problem with satire as a genre. Will the violent excess Stone is using to mock a situation be viewed by a 16-year-old as something that is cool or heroic? I can see that easily happening because teens are the main audience. But it is hard for me to define what is gratuitous in the film and what is valid.

At the same time, I think the whole film is a joke from beginning to end, and Stone was in effect lampooning himself and his previous films.

He's also telling us that violence is our own creation, and society needs to wake up. If older people don't see this film, they are missing part of the future, or the direction Stone thinks the country is headed. I say we need to see this film; here is what we have to change.

My father would say, `What's the point of the film?' To me the world used to be ice cream, daisies, and the girl next door, and now we have rapes, drive-by shootings, and domestic violence. My father might say this is just another violent film, but I say it's a satirical work of art.

Joe Yonan, editor

Mr. Yonan edits the South End News, a neighborhood newspaper in Boston. Originally from Texas, the 28-year-old Mr. Yonan has worked for suburban newspapers. He is an avid moviegoer.

COMING out of the theater after the movie, a 15- or 16-year-old black kid in the crowd in front of me told the girl with him, `Man, that was a phat movie [street lingo for cool]. They [expletive] killed everybody in the [expletive] movie. If I had a [expletive] gun right now, I'd shoot everybody on the street.' And then he acted like he had a gun and was spraying the street.

I was really shocked. It was ironic that the film showed how the media and society glorify violence, and then in turn the film glorified violence to this young kid. It illustrated the whole problem; how to tell the truth about the violence without glorifying it, without attracting kids to it. I definitely don't think the film should be seen by kids under 21.

As a journalist, I think Stone is wrong. Most of the media is not irresponsible. The tabloid TV shows and many of the local TV news shows present such a lopsided view of violence in their news package. They get the most attention, and you find yourself worried over the fact that people really want to see this stuff as the ratings go up. Becca Schanberg, City Year team leader

Ms. Schanberg is a 23-year-old high school graduate who was raised in New York and now lives in Boston. She works for City Year, a program for teens that focuses on community service. She goes to movies regularly.

I ADMIT I got a little numbed by the images in the film, and by the end of it, I was totally drained. But I loved the mixing of all the media styles.

I think Stone succeeded in the film because he shows an exact version of how our country likes violence and the media plays off it and encourages it.

All the characters in the film were sick, but that is the point. You watch them and you can't take them seriously because Stone is doing satire. The violence was gory, but not like the gore in ``Silence of the Lambs'' which was really bad and serious.

This is not a film for everyone, and probably kids under 18 shouldn't see it, but they could learn from it that society glorifies violence. It's a great film for my age group.

Should older people see it? Older people are already so critical of my generation, and if they don't see this film they are missing a good portrayal of what our society has become. Gary Chipps, New York actor

The 45-year-old Mr. Chipps tours with the Boston Chamber Theater, which dramatizes short stories for high school audiences. He rarely goes to movies.

IF you hadn't asked me to see the film, I probably would have walked out. I felt it was an oversimplification of the dark side of human behavior. [Stone] indicted everybody. There was no good anywhere. I didn't know there would be so much gratuitous violence; it was physically almost too much for me.

Films are more powerful than TV, and they give young people ideas ... especially if they don't know how to read, which is a major problem in our country. I think this film could be dangerous for some people to see because there are many incidents of violent films triggering violence in people.

From a director's perspective it was fascinating, the images came so fast, and the mixing of cartoons, black and white, color, video, all of this kept me with it. He's a wonderful director. But I asked myself, Is this entertainment or not? I saw it more as a documentary because ultimately I couldn't like or dislike it.

It's OK to satirize the media and violence, and depict how they feed off each other, but in a sense he was doing the same thing he was criticizing.

Possibly it should be shown in schools and seriously discussed so that it isn't seen as entertainment or fun.

The theater I was in was packed with young kids, and there was so much laughter after anything violent.

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