Few films in recent years have been the subject of such virulent attack as Michael Winterbottom’s 2010 film The Killer Inside Me. With its release Winterbottom was forced to defend himself against accusations of misogyny and of excessively using unjustifiable violence. Two scenes in particular found themselves the focus of much negative press: each explicitly depicting graphic and brutal violence against women.
Without a doubt the violence in Winterbottom’s film is deeply unsettling: one female character’s face is beaten until it is unrecognisable, whilst another woman urinates on the floor after being brutally beaten.
Aside from the act of violence in these two scenes, what has attracted most controversy was the manner in which these women reacted to their abuse. Both women are not only entirely passive throughout their attack, making no attempt to fight back, but they are clearly still in love with their assailant, telling him as such whilst they are beaten.
As has been noted, what makes the violence in Winterbottom’s film so repugnant, so truly shocking, is not the actual violence itself, but the manner in which it is represented. For the viewer this violence is all too real, the camera doesn’t turn away but rather forces its audience to watch. Here violence is depicted as vicious, cruel, and thus entirely accurate.
Surely the point Winterbottom is trying to make is the very point that so many critics have argued: no, the violence cannot be justified. Casey Affleck’s Lou Ford is a serial killer; there should be no excusing or justifying his violence. His acts are deeply deplorable and we the audience should find them deeply deplorable.