Is nudity really necessary in film? I think nudity is portrayed in film as either sexy,shame, power, discovery or to show vulnerability. Lets face it, many of us would be mortified to be seen naked by anyone other than our partners, although there are exceptions for the exhibitionists out there. I am no prude, but I am really shy about my own body I barely show skin, even when on the beach hence the very prominent lines on my arms, legs and lower neck. I do think there are times though when nudity is required for a role and of course the cynic in me feels that sometimes its just to make the film more popular. I think the film Swordfish was guilty of showing Halle Berry topless just to get the male population out to watch. I wonder if they sold two versions of this film, which would be the more popular? I really enjoyed Swordfish and the fact that Halle Berry was topless in it made no impact on me at all. I think it was completely unnecessary. There had been so much fuss beforehand about the scene and how much money she was getting. The question arose, How much would you have to be paid to bare all? Halle Berry bared even more flesh in Monsters Ball, but I think that was important for the role to show her loneliness and pain and how she coped with her Sons death. Heath Ledger also revealed flesh when having a dalliance with a prostitute. I think this was to show his shame and worthlessness.
Titanic was a big blockbuster hit, mainly due to the amazing effects of the Titanic meeting its doom along with the thousands of people that went with it. I think this was the first 12 certificate film I had ever seen at the cinema. Kate Winslet bared all for Jack as he etched her curves in what has become a famous scene. This I believe worked with the storyline and sort of provided an innocence to their romance. There was nothing sexual about it, it was more about the female form and how Rose was escaping from the repressed life she was living. I think had this scene been deleted it would have been missed as it was an important part of the love story. Kate has gone on to show all in a great number of films since. I think she may have become the modern Helen Mirren in this respect.
There are times when nudity is used as a way to portray shame and give others a sense of power. I read that there was a debate about whether 12 years a slave should show full frontal nudity in the film. The nudity was a very important way of shaming the slaves and giving the slave owners power. It also follows historical fact that slaves were often stripped naked in front of owners, one to see what shape they were in and two to make them feel ashamed and embarrassed. I could not think of anything worse then someone looking over me and judging me in this way. A similar use of nudity was used in Schindlers List where the Jews were also shamed in this way at the concentration camps. This is when nudity in film is essential to the story, the charaters and history.
Harvey Keitel has also showed all for film, not once but twice. I have to confess that I have not seen either film, so its hard for me to judge whether it was necessary, but from what I have read Harvey had no qualms about whipping it out for all to see. I believe it was to portray this mans vile life of sex,prostitutes and drugs, so I guess it was needed. My girlfriend and I recently watched the film Filth and although you didn’t actually see the men nude you did see pictures of their hidden talents should I say. I don’t believe that they were the actual actors, but it was part of a show of masculinity amongst the officer, which is very important. Most men do think size matters despite what they say, whether this is truly the case for women? Im not sure? I think this is the reason why there is far less male nudity in film. A male will be judged by both men and women by their size, not just of their genitalia, but their physique too. So many men will bulk up if they are topless in a film. I also believe that women find that part of a man far less attractive then men do when seeing a nude lady, so films wont necessarily get more female viewers because the man gets it out. Will smith in the shower in I Robot maybe an exception as many of my female friends became quite excited about this, even though you didn’t see much.
There are times when the human form is revealed to show weakness, shame and damage. Requiem for a dream is an example of this, where Jennifer Conelly stripped in front of the camera to show how drugs had ravaged her. The shame that she felt in doing the sex shows, just to get money for drugs. A once attractive woman now looked lifeless, bedraggled and stripped of beauty. I really hate it when films glorify drugs and in no way did Requiem for a Dream ever glorify the life they led, particularly Jennifer Conelly’s character. Christian Bale showed his physique in a number of films, most horrifying were the scenes in The Machinest as his body was reduced to just skin and bone and then the opposite in American Hustle where he had developed a paunch. This is when showing the body really sends out a message and is vital to the film.
There is of course times when nudity just means sex. Basic Instinct is an example where Sharon Stone is naked throughout the film. There is of course an element of the power she has over man, particularly in the famous cross legged scene where the officers are at her absolute mercy. Show girls an awful film where the nudity is essential because its all about strippers. Porky’s is another such film where Kim Catrell is the fantasy of all those teenage boys. Recently we saw Wolf on Wall Street with both main characters revealing all or most of their body. This was a part of the characters hedonistic lifestyle, where anything went and sex was just sex and nothing else.
I think for the most part nudity is important to the film and can build part of a character, it can be relevant to history, be part of the development of a relationship or sometimes it’s just for titillation. I’m sure there are many films out there where this is the case. Can you name some and did you think the human form really needed to be shown to such an extent?