127 Hours opens today starring James Franco as solo mountain climber Aron Ralston who becomes trapped under an 800 lb boulder while canyoneering alone near Moab, Utah.
Ralston is forced to take desperate measures to free himself, and he severs his arm for survival. According to ABC News, “sometimes what’s on screen is so realistically depicted that the visceral impact can literally make audience members ill.”
Directed by Slumdog Millionaire’s Danny Boyle, the film caused six people to collapse on Sunday at the film festival. A Los Angeles Times article stated that, “One person who attended a guild screening commented that she felt as though she was going to throw up while watching the amputation scene. After turning dizzy, she fainted. Another attendee suffered an apparent seizure.”
“I would prefer that people not pass out – it’s not a plus,” said Stephen Gilula, an executive from FoxSearchlight, to the Times. He added that there have been eight people who have also fainted at other preview screenings.
The self amputation scene has such a physical impact because of a “fight or flight” response. Steven Schlozman, a child psychiatrist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, explains to ABC News that, “What follows next is the vasovagal response, in which blood doesn’t make its way to the brain as fast as it should, which leads to feeling faint, lightheaded or sweaty.” Scholozman adds that “the mirror neuron response theory” is when an observer feels what another human feels by watching them endure the frightening or painful experience. It is an element of empathy and participation, and several 127 Hours viewers are already proof for this theory.
The film is based on real-life climber Ralston’s book “Between a Rock and a Hard Place.” Hard place, I guess!
127 opens today, and we’ll see whether these incidents are really based on the movie’s intense graphic scene or merely coincidences. I was sick to my stomach when I watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and once a friend of mine got sick during Hitch and had to leave the theater. Sometimes it’s the disturbing and graphic scenes, and sometimes it’s too much pizza.