Think modern day apocalyptica — Bonnie and Clyde style. Natural Born Killers, a 1994 Oliver Stone film, garnered a certain level of baseline critique for depicting modern media’s violence obsession. That was to be expected. But for a director, a veteran himself, with a history of realistic war and politics films under his belt, it was surprising the press interpreted Natural Born Killers as a sum of its gory depictions (missing the intelligently satirical & sharply critical intentions altogether).
The film makes an urgent case against the collective’s celebration of violence for the sake of spectacular news. We can still relate. Though we do not necessarily celebrate violence in the same exact way Mallory and Mickey are loved as Natural Born Killers, what is our wide acceptance of violence as fact, matter of course?
Natural Born Killers has the distinction of an original Quentin Tarantino script. Though, it was subsequently rewritten by Stone, Richard Rutowski and David Veloz.
In Stone’s own words, the extravagant editing style of the film was a product of the 90s — a time of extreme everything. The movie’s filming and editing were in direct dialogue with the time’s approach to news. Gatekeeping had changed, as it steered to service the scandalous, extravagant, and sensational.
emptypicturesfilm, an analysis blog with a focus on surrealism in art and film, published an incredible essay exploring the film’s deeper meanings by way of its intricate editing. Read it here.
Casting Natural Born Killers was difficult, as most actors were not interested in taking part. Any role an actor plays becomes a part of their perceived identity, but Lewis claims to have experienced the prejudicial backlash years after release. Colleagues were actually surprised she was not maniacal…
According to Stone, America is literal to a fault and accepted the film only at face value. As an art audience, it is crucial to understand depictions as tools — extreme violence (including sexual violence in some of the toughest scenes) can be one such methodology. It is clear that Natural Born Killers is satire, provoking the audience to think about the media we consume and the kind of audience we become from that consumption.
In a twist of fate, not only did the film predate the massive uprising in true crime media coverage, it preceded the OJ Simpson trial by a year. Natural Born Killers almost predicted the media fetishization of murder. Watching this film is a cruel reminder of how possibly worse the media perception of violence is now.
We face the deaths of innocent transgender people every year.
We face the deaths of innocent schoolchildren every year.
We face the deaths of those seeking a better life in new countries.
Is total indifference really better than the celebritization of violence perpetrators? Or has the money to be made from media coverage dried out?