A light flashes, a figure appears: Keira Knightley is walking across a film set, saying goodnight to her colleagues. Cut to a car where, flawless as ever, she is wiping off the dayâ€™s makeup. Knightley arrives at her apartment building, glances at the menacing figure framed in a window above, then boards a glass elevator â€” her door keys jangling,
the audienceâ€™s nerves rising. Inside, she is greeted by a broken mirror, a trail of blood, and a man who proceeds to knock her to the ground and kick her hard, repeatedly, in the stomach.The scenes have all the sheen and nastiness of a Hollywood thriller, but are actually part of a new ad campaign for the charity Womenâ€™s Aid, which works to end domestic violence.
The ad is directed by Joe Wright, who made the film Atonement, and is due to be shown
in cinemas nationwide from Monday, as well as appearing on television and forming the basis of a poster campaign. Seeing Britainâ€™s highest-profile young actor being roughed up like a rag doll is naturally shocking. But once the initial horror had passed, I was left wondering about the point of the ad. In one sense, of course, its meaning is clear.
It ends with the camera panning out to show that Knightley is being attacked on a film set. There follows the line, â€œIsnâ€™t it time someone called cut?â€ and an appeal for money.
â€œTwo women die due to domestic violence every week. Help save lives. Donate Â£2 a month.â€Itâ€™s like many domestic violence ads weâ€™ve seen before: a plea to recognise that such assaults exist, and to raise extra funds for support services.But thereâ€™s something about a celebrity being used to represent a domestic violence victim that makes me feel slightly queasy.
This isnâ€™t the first time that Womenâ€™s Aid has taken this tack; in 2007, it produced a campaign featuring several celebrities including Anna Friel, Fern Britton and Fiona Bruce
â€” each made up with enormous fake bruises, split lips or gashed foreheads and shot beautifully by the fashion photographer, Rankin.The images were arresting, but odd. And what were the images supposed to tell us: that domestic violence is bad? Painful? Causes serious bruising?Two years on, they seem particularly strange amid the real photographs that have emerged of celebrity women such as the singer Rihanna and glamour model Danielle Lloyd, both of whom are alleged to have been beaten by their partners. You canâ€™t help wondering how the genuine victims of domestic violence feel about all these well- meaning facsimiles.One woman who has campaigned extensively on behalf of domestic violence victims, expresses extreme distaste at the use of these celebrity ads. Other women echo the notion that anti-domestic violence ads should shift focus from the victim to the perpetrator.
The domestic violence statistics are horrific, and apparently deadlocked: while 570,000 women report domestic violence to the police each year, an estimated 60% of all cases go unreported. A welter of dread and threat played out in British homes.