Violence and gore is not only present in Nordic genre movies; the Norwegian indiepop band The Fjords has incorporated gratuitous violence in the music video for their song All in.
Directed by Line Klungseth Johansen and Øystein Moe, the promotional film shows how a young video gamer shoots people at a hot dog stand. Influenced by game violence, the shoot-out turns into a blood-spattered massacre. The distinctly cinematic video, set in a 1980s-like time, includes special effects like blood squibs, smashed windows, burning people, CGI fireballs, an exploding car and game cartridge stabbing!
The video is a tribute to the violent entertainment of the 80s, and was initiated by Helmet, a film production and visual effects company based in Trondheim in Mid Norway. -I thought the idea was fantastic. [The video] is open for interpretation and a number of layers. People who watches the video will have to make up their own opinion. There is one realistic and one fantastic layer in the film, The Fjords member Petter Vågan said to NRK P3 about the film which also includes a child strangulation and roundkicks.
The question wether violence in video games leads to violence in real life is as old as the video game itself, predated by and overlapping with the debate of violent movies. In the early 80s, when home video became a large part of film consumption in Scandinavia (without any mandatory censorship until 1988 in Norway), many opinionated groups had reached the consenus that fictional violence begot violence. These were the times when activists wanted to forbid the sales of video players in Norway because they could be used to watch porn and gore. -These authority figures often represented schools, churches, political groups or social services, with media sciences conspicuously absent. [Actual media experts] thought the problem was much more complex than what the other groups claimed, and didn’t really enter the debate until the 19902 and 2000s, author Vegard Higraff says to Nordic Fantasy. Higraff has written the book Censored – The history of the Board of Film Classification, to be published this fall. He also wrote the book Video violence – Regulation of the video medium 1980 – 2004 in 2011, together with Marte Smith-Isaksen.
Petter Vågan does not want to comment on research related to video violence, but thinks that violence has been a constant factor throughout the history of humans. He says violence is “present in human nature” and that TV is attracting viewers with violent content, possibly because violence is some of the most dramatic a person can experience. When asked if he thinks the band’s video can be seen as speculative, Vågan said to NRK P3: -Clearly. I want it to get people engaged. What I like most about the video is the moral and ethical ambiguity one feels when watching it. It can be hard to know where to lay one’s sympathies.
Ragnhild Bjørnebekk is a researcher at the National Police University College in Norway, and an expert on crime, gangs and violence. She thinks that the video is interesting from a philosophical point of view. -It deals with impact and influences. Fiction becomes reality in the head of the young boy. He conquers his fear by winning. From research we know that [mass media can sometimes help fiction transcend] into reality. It is related to our mind systems, she said to NRK P3. She recommends that the video could be used in high schools to improve the ability to separate fiction from reality, as younger children probably would find the video confusing.
Censorship expert Vegard Higraff doubts the music video will have any impact today. -In a time when people are entertained by Saw, Hostel, The Walking Dead and numerous other violent movies and TV series, I don’t think this video will provoke anyone. However, back in 1982, a year with a record number of banned movies, this video, with a child performing a massacre in detailed close-ups, the video would no doubt be banned.
Today, the video violence debate is almost non-existent in Norway. Any flares are quickly put out by lack of interest or deju-vu. The last big video violence debate happened in 1994, when Natural Born Killers was heading for cinemas. There were also rumbles around the age limits of Starship Troopers and The Frighteners in 1998, but after that it got quiet. Today it is easy to buy previously banned movies from any mainstream retailer, from The life of Brian to Cannibal Holocaust.
The Fjords’ video (below) looks great and is fun to watch for fans of blood, violence and 80s retro culture, but to make it count in a larger context may prove hard to achieve. Post your own thoughts on video violence in the comments field below, to get the debate going!