The recent and ongoing debate regarding the grisly nature of Mad Max Beyond Gethsemane has caused The Duke to think back to a similar Filmic Affair, another example of the reputation of a piece of work leading to almost unbearable levels of anxiety before a damn frame had appeared onscreen.
Folks going into to see Braveheart 2 - The Passion, are already convinced they're going to experience something visceral, something unbearable, something that will replicate the flogging, the scourging, upon their own hypothetical flesh.
Of course, what will really happen is that they will leave the cinema, possibly somewhat shaken, possibly debating that the book was better, or that the Passolini film had better music, or that Harvey Keitel was a better Judas, and then next week all will be forgotten as Scooby Doo 2 or some-such floods their field of vision.
But that anticipation, that sense of dread, that knowledge that something deeply unpleasant is about to happen, that's something to cherish right there.
I'm not being deliberately flippant here (and believe me, The Duke can really DO flippant), but there's something quite substantial to Mark Kermode's reading of the film as an exploitation classic. Kermode compares The Passion to the cinema of the grindhouse, of the seedy, dimly-lit, urine-soaked theatres that play Midnight Specials comprising Eaten Alive! and House At The Edge Of The Park, those films that are less enjoyable movie-going experiences than they are gruelling and, as a consequence, dementedly exciting endurance tests.
Before The Passion, there was Gasper Noe's Irreversible, the last film to arrive with such a back-breaking howl of distress attached to its very core that it was impossible to be at ease when the credits appeared. Of course, Irreversible really delivered, in a way that even Gibson's film doesn't, when it comes to complete and utter nausea-inducing brutality. Noe underscored his film with a bass frequency used by French Police to break up riots. It works, too. I was white-faced, shaking and beside myself less than twenty minutes in. But in a strange, bizarre, and certainly troubling kind of way, it was one of the purest, most exhilarating experiences I've had in front of the telly. You knew you were watching it, shall we say.
But what's the point of all this?
Well, the point is as follows, neatly arranged into nice, literate sentences.
Irreversible comes close, but the award for most relentlessly distressing cinematic act of aggression rests with a film released in 1980, a film so raw, so commanding and so stomach-curdling in its grotesquery, that it is still banned in many territories (Australia and West Germany, for example), and impossible to legally purchase in it's true form in countless others.