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Leading up to the release of Divergent on Blu-ray and DVD, Summit-Lionsgate released a deleted scene that shows one of the Dauntless initiates suffering a severe eye wound... to put it mildly. While we might have assumed that this scene had to be cut due to the film's PG-13 rating, director Neil Burger actually says otherwise. There were some scenes that had to be toned down to avoid an R rating, but the eye-stabbing scene wasn't one of them...
This is the scene in question:
The clip shows Tris and some of the other initiates waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of the agonizing screams of Edward (Ben Lamb), one of the leading Dauntless initiates. In the book, the scene is a demonstration of just how competitive the Dauntless trainees are, and how determined some of them are to rise to the top -- or at the very least, to not wash out.
Burger says he heard the theory that the scene was cut because of the violence, but corrected the assumption, saying that wasn't really cut for the rating. "That was mostly cut out because it was interrupting the flow of the story," he explained, adding that he loved the scene and thought Ben Lamb's performance was great, but going on to say:
"Sometimes you look at the movie as a whole and you’re like what’s slowing us down? Why is this feeling long? And even though it’s a good scene, that’s really the art of trying to figure out where the movie is working and sometimes what’s slowing it down is one of your favorite scenes, and you’ve got to cut it out."
So, in the case of the eye-stabbing scene, the omission had less to do with the violence and more to do with its disruption to the flow of the story.
Divergent was always going to be PG-13. "R rating was off the table," the director confirmed, noting that there was too big an audience of under-17s who wanted to see the movie. And hitting that rating did require some changes. Burger says there was "a lot of trimming" done to soften some of the brutality of the fighting, noting that it's disappointing, but "it is what it is."
If you listen to the commentary on the Blu-ray, Burger actually points out an area of the movie that had to be altered for the film's rating, and here's where we get into spoiler territory, so if you haven't seen the movie yet or at the very least, read the book, read no further!.
There's a scene near the end of the movie where a Dauntless initiate, who isn't affected by the serum, is shot. It's still in the movie, but Burger says his cut was "much more shocking," going on to add that "the movie as a whole, especially in the latter section, was much more visceral and frankly, violent."
Stay tuned for more thoughts from Neil Burger on the making of Divergent. In the meantime, check out our review of the theatrical release of the film here!