Friday, May 4, 2007


Saturday, April 28, 2007 at 10:15
Hungarian police investigate kitten murder in film
Budapest (dpa) - Hungarian police are investigating a film director after an animal-protection charity reported him for drowning a kitten in a scene from a recent prize-winning film.

The Herman Otto Animal and Nature Defence Association reported Zoltan Toepler after he admitted that a kitten really died in the scene from his film "Alszent" ("Hypocrite").

A statement by the association said the animal had been killed with the greatest possible suffering to achieve "the desired effect," and called this a serious crime against society.

The association said that according to Hungarian law, animals could only be killed for acceptable reasons, such as incurable illnesses and academic research.

It also pointed out that animals could only be killed by drugs, as this caused the least suffering.

Toepler released a statement in response to hate mail, including death threats, he received after the complaint came to light.

The director said that while the animal had been killed, he had received the footage from an outside source.

"I didn't drown the kitten, but when a colleague showed me the footage, I said this must go in the film," he said. ""When I asked where the footage came from, I was told that it was a sick animal incapable of living that was put down."

"I would judge those who torture feeling creatures, but not the cameraman who filmed it," he continued.

The film, which Toepler made under the name Nicolaus Myslicki, won a special prize at the 2007 Hungarian Film Week for best experimental short.

Members of the film-week jury said in statement on the event's website that they would withdraw the award if it could be proven beyond a doubt that the animal was killed simply for the sake of the film.

Source: The Europe Channel
The film: Hypocrite - warning: it contains the death scene

I came upon this article a few days ago, while scanning over various recent news on the Independent Film front. It was certainly not what I had expected to see. The boundaries of Art and Good Taste are frequently challenged by controversies of varying natures. I'm sure many of us can recall the upheaval over the "Piss Christ" installation, or the more recent "Chocolate Christ." Religion, is a touchy subject no matter what the forum, especially one so subjective as Art. "Hypocrite", however, crosses a different boundary. The simple inclusion of a two-minute segment of film, which makes us witness to the drowning death of a kitten,leads us to question our humanity, and most certainly the filmmaker's. It pokes at a sensitive place on our underbellies reminding us of the frailty of life, and the cruelties of which mankind is capable.

Unfortunately over the past few days I've been unable to find a translation of the subtitles and script of the film "Hypocrite". It would undoubtedly shed some light as to the filmmaker's purpose and/or meaning in showing the drowning of a kitten...but then, maybe not. Whatever his intention, when the Judges of the film festival awarded it "Best Experimental Film", under the misconception that they were watching a special effect and not a real drowning, they seemed to find his idea profound. It must have been the Idea that won the award, because anyone watching this film would question the technical merits of it as it looks like little more than a home movie with subtitles and then suddenly the tragic murder of a baby cat. I am desperate to know the script's translation, if only to understand the film's title, how the death scene has any relation to the two men in the beginning....oh...and why the kitten had to die. It seems to me that there are any number of ways for a point to be made without incorporating murder.

I must point out, that each person I've spoken to about this film has asked to see it, and indeed the link is included above. So for all the horror that is proclaimed over this inhumane act...we ironically play hypocrite and still watch. Perhaps this is part of the artist's idea, not unlike the collaborative film by Quentin Tarantino and Oliver Stone, Natural Born Killers, which simultaneously mocks society's obsession with immorality and "sin", and entreats the audience to favor the villains of the story by writing them as they protagonists. Perhaps the low Hungarian murmurings in the beginning are invitations to watch this horrid deed...and though it is two minutes in length- a very long time in film- we watch...both mesmerized by the act and anticipating some salvation, though we already know it will not come.

Beyond the moral issues of including such a scene, there is the debate of whether this scene was filmed specifically for the movie: meaning he deliberately murdered a kitten; or, if his claims are true that this was an animal put down from sickness that someone somewhere perversely thought should be filmed for posterity. Regardless of WHY the kitten was drowned, the truly troublesome matter is WHY someone would chose to film its death?? This isn't a singular incident, of course. Several years ago a company made FAR TOO MUCH money from a series of videos called "Faces of Death". I was quite dismayed to find that some friends of mine had bought the set...and spent much of the night they sat watching it hanging out in the kitchen and drinking. Yes, I'd far rather destroy my own liver and reduce my mental capacity...and even still in that drunken state I did not and would not find such a thing entertaining. These videos featured everything from people eating monkey brains directly from their skulls while they were still alive, to execution videos of criminals and POWs, and even less tasteful still alleged rape and snuff films.

The truth is...death fascinates us.

Death fascinates us as much as it repulses us and frightens us.

Am I condoning the manner of death used? No. Am I condoning the filming of that death? Absolutely not. I am merely expounding the storming cloud of thoughts spawned by this article. If this footage was made specifically for this film then yes, I think the filmmaker should be hung out to dry and charged with whatever is within legal bounds. If this is a piece of footage that he came upon and made use of....then I must withhold judgment, as I do not know what the dialog preceding the segment is. Although I must say, the title gives me pause and I can only imagine that whatever the idea presented has certainly gotten a few people talking.


ElphieWitch said...

*foams angrily at the mouth*

Kahl said...

I knew your reaction would be something to this effect, which is why I warned you before hand. Just, please dear....for your own sake and that of everyone near you...DO NOT watch the video. Simply take my word that it is disturbing. It is not so violent as I would have expected. Having very nearly drowned myself...I assumed that there would be a lot of thrashing about, and there isn't, which is the only thing that leads me to believe that perhaps the animal was, in fact, sick or drugged. Regardless...the knowledge of what you are watching makes it horrific enough.

I thought it best to forwarn you of the subject of this post before you stumbled on it yourself. I hope that was the right thing to do.

ElphieWitch said...

I have no intentions of watching the video.

And yes, it may have been sick...drugged...or simply trusting. That's what makes me the angriest of all. It's like the puppy that mean teenagers set on fire that keeps coming over to them, still loving and trusting and hoping they'll help him with the atrocious pain they themselves are the cause of. Makes me sick.

Kahl said...

Mankind's self-proclaimed superiority and lack of compassion lead them to do unspeakable things to each other. It is no surprise then the horrid things they do to creatures they deem lesser.

I find myself struggling with many decisions regularly in regard to eating meat, wearing certain fabrics, even wearing cosmetics....not to mention the daily knowledge that the medications that keep me well, may very well have cost any number of animals their lives. But even these conscious cruelties are with an intent. Someone can say that the animals life was not in vain. It is, however, an hollow justification.

But this....? No human's life is aided or sustained by this bit of film. There is no justification, no matter how hollow.