Naked Women, Slaughtered Animals: Ulrich Seidl and the Limits of the Real

Catherine Wheatley

in The New Extremism in Cinema

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780748641604
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651221 | DOI:
Naked Women, Slaughtered Animals: Ulrich Seidl and the Limits of the Real

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This chapter offers a slightly different take on Ulrich Seidl by focusing on the tension between documentary and fiction in his work and reflecting more broadly on the status of the ‘real’ in the cinema of the new extremism. Considering how reality is deployed in the films of the new extreme, the chapter explores what it describes as one of the tropes of the new extremism: the real-life slaughter of animals on screen. Debates about the viewer's ambivalent, emotional response to the death of animals relates in intriguing ways to Seidl's treatment of human subjects in films such as Import/Export. While acknowledging the uneasiness generated by his films and the uncertainty regarding the issue of the consent of his performers, this chapter ultimately concludes that Seidl's pushing at the limits of the real, as frightening as it may be, is also extraordinarily effective at bringing us into contact with realities of human suffering in a manner unprecedented in the other films of the new extreme.

Keywords: Ulrich Seidl; documentary; fiction; new extremism; slaughter; animals; human suffering; Import/Export

Chapter.  4388 words. 

Subjects: Film

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