When I think of Blonde, I don’t think of Ana de Armas‘ impressive, open-veined performance or the mostly black-and-white cinematography or the 1.37 aspect ratio or the expert craft levels or Andrew Dominik‘s ambition to create a serious art film. (Which he’s obviously done.)

What I think of is the cruelty. Whatever the degree of actual psychological anguish and emotional abrasion that the real Norma Jean Baker suffered through in her actual life, Blonde doubles if not triples the ante. It re-brutalizes and re-exploits the poor woman all over again, and more than earns its reputation of being a cruel, sadistic, bludgeoning film.

What other noteworthy films could be fairly described as cruel, heartless and sadistic toward their main protagonists?

Off the top of my head I would say Pier Paolo Pasolini‘s Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom. And certainly Lars von Trier‘s Dancer in the Dark. Not to mention Robert Bresson‘s Au hazard Balthazar, Mel Gibson‘s The Passion of the Christ, Vaclav Malhoul‘s The Painted Bird (“a highbrow art film for elite critics and cineastes who have the fence-straddling ability to enjoy magnificent b&w cinematography (all hail dp Vladimir Smutny) and austere visual compositions while savoring the utmost in human cruelty and heartless perversion“), Hostel, Irreversible, A Clockwork Orange, Funny Games (both versions), Inglourious Basterds…what others?