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BERLIN (Reuters) - British director Michael Winterbottom has defended graphic scenes of violence in his latest movie "The Killer Inside Me" which prompted dozens of people to walk out of a press screening in disgust.
The movie, starring a U.S. cast of Casey Affleck, Jessica Alba and Kate Hudson, had already caused a stir when it was shown at the Sundance festival last month, and it is now in competition at Berlin where it premieres on Friday.
The Killer Inside Me is based on a pulp fiction novel by Jim Thompson, which Winterbottom said left a deep impression on him when he read it.
The most explicit violence comes early on in the movie when Affleck's character, the respected yet creepy deputy sheriff Lou Ford, decides to beat his prostitute girlfriend Joyce (Alba) to death in order to frame an old enemy and take his money.
Little is left to the imagination as Ford punches Joyce repeatedly in the face until he presumes her dead.
In a later scene, he metes out similar punishment to Amy (Hudson), although it does not have the same level of detail. Several sex scenes also involve sado-masochistic elements.
"A lot of noir books and films show violence as something which is entertaining," Winterbottom told reporters at a press conference dominated by questions about the on-screen violence.
"What I liked about Jim Thompson's books is that, though very much in the pulp fiction genre, he doesn't use the violence as entertainment -- there is something shocking about the violence.
"For me that was the point of the violence in the film in a way -- it is something very repulsive. In terms of how we depicted it, we were just trying to make it as close to the book as possible. The book is very shocking."
Winterbottom was also asked whether he thought the film could be criticized for being misogynist, with the most disturbing attacks reserved for the female leads.
"Lou Ford is a very weak person who's messed up by his childhood and he has all sorts of insecurities and in the end he wants to destroy himself," Winterbottom replied.
"I think anyone watching this film saying this in some way supports or encourages violence is just watching the film in a very perverse way."
The Killer Inside Me follows Ford as he goes on a murder spree to cover up his crime and settle old scores. Unwilling to let anyone close to him, he kills the women he loves.
The movie is one of 20 in the main competition in Berlin.
Also screening on Friday was Danish entry "A Family," about an elderly, ailing father and patriarch whose family must decide how far it is prepared to go to support him.
"Mammuth," starring French veteran Gerard Depardieu, is the last competition film to have its premiere. The awards ceremony takes place on Saturday evening.
Editing by Steve Addison