been a while since the last full team-based CHUD LIST. Too long. With
the goal being to ease back into the swing of things and hopefully get
us on track to a list a month, here’s the latest, BAD FOR US, WORSE FOR
THEM. The concept is simple.
This isn’t a “Best Kills” list.
We’ve done that and done it better than anyone ever could (though we’ll
revisit that at some point to rewrite the history books). This is a
list of forty deaths in cinema, twenty of which that have a profound
affect on the viewer whether by the sheer tragedy of it, how
emotionally impactful it is, or how it is a catalyst for a real descent
in the progression of the story. The other twenty are deaths that go
beyond the call of duty, not because they’re cool or really well
executed FX, but because they are just knee-capping in their immediacy,
brutality, or simple visceral impact. Kills that will probably leave a
We could have done hundreds of these, but here’s twenty of
each from the CHUD staff, delivered two a day for you until the list is
Day Seventeen - It’s no good to be in the God business.
The Donkey in Au Hasard, Balthazar (1966)
I don’t believe it is too much of a stretch to label Au Hasard, Balthazar
as one of the greatest films of all time, and the death that ends it
one of the most profound. Shot in black and white in France and
released in 1966, Balthazar
is a troubling, moving, and powerful film from Robert Bresson that
casts a harsh light on the iniquities of humanity. It is often said you
can judge a man by how he treats his inferiors, and Au Hasard, Balthasar judges all of humanity by how it treats a simple, but sympathetic creature- a donkey.
Au Hasard, Balthazar
is quite simply the story of the birth, life, and death of a beast of
burden. There is an easily read allegorical Christ story at play here,
though that is only one basic layer of an incredibly rich film. There
is a great deal of commentary going on, and Bresson makes his
frustrations with modernity (in the form of radios, tractors, and cars)
and bureaucracy (forms, paperworks, wills, summons) quite clear. One
may also read the film with Balthazar’s fluctuating value in mind. The
film is a series of trades and passages of ownership of the creature,
who is used until the very end. Finally, the film is worthy of
extensive examination for it’s advanced techniques of filmmaking craft-
the sound design is used with precision uncommon to the era, Bresson’s
constant Kubricking of the actors into neutrality creates an emotional
void that gives the viewer no easy answers, and the Kuleshovic cutting
and camera work tells a powerful story with few words. Of course, this
isn’t entirely Balthazar’s show. The donkey’s story is paralleled by
that of Marie, a simple farm girl who suffers and invites suffering
through her relationship with a local smuggler Gerard.
is only one of many who will abuse the creature, though it is Gerard’s
theft of Balthazar, when the donkey has grown old and returned to his
original home, that leads to his demise. Literally weighted with the
sin of man (Gerard’s goods to be smuggled), Balthazar is led onto a
hill where the smugglers are discovered and dispersed by gunfire.
Balthazar is startled and hides in the woods, though the next morning
we discover him shot in the side (presented as stigmata). Finally
reaching the end of his long struggle with life, Balthazar lies amongst
a flock of sheep and passes away.
can certainly read this story and this ending as one of grace in the
face of sin, or as a bittersweet metaphor for the passion of Jesus
Christ, but to do so is to turn a decidedly blind eye to the cynicism
that Bresson hides in plain site. Most obvious is the constant abuse
that Balthazar endures, but there is much more pessimism to be found.
When Marie’s father passes away from grief, a priest impotently tries
to comfort him, and the sick man turns his back to the empty words
about God’s compassion- statements that run contrary to everything
we’ve witnessed. Most troubling though, is how Bresson ends the film.
Most seem to focus on the image of Balthazar dying amongst the flock,
with an adorable lamb nursing nearby.
is undoubtedly a touching image, and one that is sure to bring tears to
any invested viewer, but it is not the final image of the film.
Instead, Bresson leaves us with a far less graceful or angelic image,
one of Balthazar lying prostrate on his side, alone. The subtle shift
in composition and removal of the other animals turns a dubitably sweet
image into something much sadder, and much less hopeful.
Pain of Death: HIGH. Spends the whole night bleeding from a gunshot wound. He’s a weary donkey too- overworked and underloved.
Emotional Loss: PROFOUND. It can be argued the innocence and goodness of the whole human race dies with him.
Will There Be a Closed Casket Funeral: Nope, just some lamb love.
Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood (2007)
few characters have been as completely owned, so thoroughly dominated,
so unquestionably beaten as Eli Sunday at the hands of Daniel Plainview.
is a dangerous thing for Eli to draw a line in the sand with a
brilliant and misanthropic oil tycoon, though he has his fair share of
early, shallow victories. His sermonizing, manipulation, and utter
bullshit is no match for Plainview though, who has a much farther
reaching imagination for cruelty, and who plays the long game. As Eli
boards a train as a successful evangelist ready for a worldwide
mission, we see Plainview in shadow, seemingly furious with Eli’s
success- it is instead Plainview’s frustration with how long he’ll have
to wait for victory that we witness.
Eli travels the world, falling deeper and deeper into debt and sin,
Plainview waits, growing crazier and crazier. Brutally detaching
himself from his son, and living a life of boredom, his moment comes
when Eli finally crawls back, begging for a friend. Amidst false
nostalgia for their “friendship” and “ups and downs,” Eli reveals his
desire to exploit the final Little Boston lease. Here Plainview pulls
the punchline he’s been setting up for years, forcing Eli to declare
himself a false prophet and God a superstition, before revealing Eli’s
brother Paul’s success and the worthlessness of the land. Milkshakes
are mentioned. A meme is born.
having torn from Eli any shred of dignity he ever possessed in his
pathetic little life, Daniel Plainview destroys his fucking skull with a
goddamned bowling pin. Not content just to strip him of his pride and
hope, Daniel fucking bludgeons him to death with a goddamn bowling pin.
It’s true, Daniel Plainview may be a misanthropic, psychopathic, and
crazy asshole unworthy of any sympathy himself… but Eli’s
such a little bitch.
Pain of Death: MEDIUM. He receives some nasty cracks to the skull, but he gets destroyed pretty quick.
Emotional Loss: NONE. Fuck him.
Will There Be a Closed Casket Funeral: Yes.
I like to think his face is crushed to the point of complete
disfigurement against the bowling lane as he’s skullfucked from behind
by a bowling pin.
Insult To Injury: His milkshake is all drunk.
Today’s installment written by Renn Brown.
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