Battle Royale

Magazine writer Jennifer Hill (Camille Keaton) travels from her home in New York to a secluded cabin in the woods in order to try her hand at writing her first novel. Upon arriving she encounters a mentally retarded delivery boy by the name of Matthew (Richard Pace). Upon encountering her he then returns to a group of three men that might by described at best as Southern Good olí Boys that treat him as something of a mascot. Upon being given a somewhat exaggerated account of her feminine wiles they decode to pay her a visit, which is where all the trouble starts.

It seems Matthew is still a virgin so they put it upon themselves to orchestrate his coming out. It doesnít take much of a leap of faith to assume Jennifer wants no part of this so the four men engage in a fairly brutal gang rape. She escapes for a time but in the end is raped and beaten two more times before being left alone in her cabin while all but Matthew believe she is dead. As for the films remaining third that is where the revenge part of the Rape/Revenge genre comes in.

I Spit on Your Grave, or Day of the Woman which was its original release title which is preferred by its director, was theatrically released in 1979 to a firestorm of controversy surrounding its abrasive subject mater. Based partially, or perhaps more accurately said to be inspired by an actual incident that the films Director Meir Zarchi encountered the aftermath of. It seems he and his young daughter and a family friend were driving along when they were confronted by a woman who had recently been brutalized and raped. After taking her to the authorities and finding them impassive and totally ineffective he later decided to use this subject matter for his first film. At first being an independent production dealing with what many found to be unappealing subject matter he shopped it around for a year and was somehow was even able to screen it at the 1978 Cannes Film Festival. Finally in 1979 he was able to find distribution for the film under the condition that he change its title to I Spit on Your Grave, which he reportedly thought of as a horrible change. It turned out that this was only the beginning of Zarchiís troubles. Do to the outcry of various high profile critics most notably Roger Ebert who strongly advocated that the film should receive an outright ban. In the end this notoriety helped push the film into cult status, but in the days before home video this did much to hurt the chances of it becoming anything of a financial success. But with the rise of home video years later the film surpassed all expectations for sale when first released in 1981 which only goes to show that there is indeed a strong audience for this film. Its what that audience sees in or takes away from it that has caused much of the controversy.

To talk a little bit about the making and interpretations of the film. The majority of the actors used in the film are non-actors, few of which had any kind of a career in film later on. The exception being actress Camille Keaton who would later go on to be married to the films director for a time. She had been working in the Italian film industry since the early 1970's in a series of big and small roles most notably appearing in the title role in 1972's What Have They Done to Solange?. This use of amateurs having a mixed result, in the case of the animalistic rape scenes it probably had been a positive to have more of an intuitive performance, but later on during the second half when dialog and reliance on the actors talent increases here is where one of the films weaknesses lies. It was also decided that the film would have no musical score which helps to portray the rape sequences as even more cruel and gritty than they otherwise would be. In the end it is clear from viewing the finished product that the director tried his best to take out any hint of enjoyment or eroticism from the three rapes which showing them in a strongly negative light, along with the directors original stated intentions and the style in which the film was shot in is one of the reasons that those who view the film as having some merit above simple spectacle will hold it up as something of value. But one thing that is certain is that the film will continue to be referenced as one of the most important examples in the evolution of the Rape/Revenge genre.






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