The film is rated 12A for infrequent strong language and moderate sex references.
There are five uses of strong language ('fuck'), which occur in different comic situations and with no undue aggression. The film also contains milder bad language, including hell , shit , prick , dickhead , dick , smart arse
, arseing , bugger , screw that , screwed up , sod all , bum , Christ and bastard .
Anyway this appears to be a slight change to the guidelines as the last time it was mentioned, only 4 'fucks' were allowed in a 12A rated film.
BBFC is to adjust sexual and sadistic violence policy to take into account key areas of public concern. Recent research has helped the BBFC to respond to concerns about depictions of rape, sexual assault and other sadistic violence in films and
Research carried out on behalf of the BBFC in 2002 and again in 2012 demonstrates that members of the film viewing public find unacceptable certain depictions of sexual and sadistic violence which, in their view, have the potential to cause harm.
Although the research reaffirms views that adults should be able to choose what they see, provided it remains within the law and is not potentially harmful. They are concerned about young men with little experience, and more vulnerable viewers,
accessing sadistic and sexually violent content, which could serve to normalise rape and other forms of violence and offer a distorted view of women.
Film viewing members of the public support intervention at the adult category, by the BBFC, to remove certain depictions of violence on the grounds that they consider them to be potentially harmful.
The research carried out by Ipsos MORI in 2012 highlights concerns about certain depictions of sadistic and sexual violence to which the BBFC must respond. Much of the public believe that sexual and sadistic violence are legitimate areas for film makers
to explore. But they are concerned by certain depictions which may be potentially harmful to some, including scenes which:
make sexual or sadistic violence look appealing
reinforce the suggestion that victims enjoy rape
invite viewer complicity in rape or other harmful violent activities.
Most of those involved in the research expect the BBFC to intervene to remove potential harm from such scenes. The BBFC may also intervene where a depiction is so demeaning or degrading to human dignity (for example it consists of strong abuse, torture
or death without any significant mitigating factors) as to pose a harm risk.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:
"There is no 'one size fits all' rule for any theme under the BBFC classification guidelines, as long as what is depicted is within the law and does not pose a harm risk. Once again the public have told us that context, tone and impact, and a work's
over all message, can aggravate a theme, or make it acceptable, even in cases of sexual and sadistic violence. The decision as to whether and how to intervene in scenes of sexual and sadistic violence is complex, but drawing out and applying these
aggravating and mitigating factors is helpful in arriving at a decision which balances freedom of expression against public protection".
SEXUAL AND SADISTIC VIOLENCE: RESPONSE OF THE BBFC TO PUBLIC ATTITUDES AND CONCERNS
Research carried out on behalf of the BBFC, most recently by Ipsos MORI in 2012, demonstrates that film viewing members of the public find unacceptable certain depictions of sexual and sadistic violence which, in their view, have the potential to cause
harm. This concern is particularly acute in relation to young men, without much life experience, and other vulnerable viewers accessing a diet of sadistic and sexually violent content, which could serve to normalise rape and other forms of violence
and offer a distorted view of women.
Further, there is support for intervention, at the adult category, to remove certain depictions of violence on the grounds that many of the public consider them to be potentially harmful.
The BBFC's response to these concerns must strike a balance between, on the one hand, freedom of expression and the principle that adults should be free to choose what they see provided it remains within the law and is not potentially harmful, and the
need to protect the vulnerable from material which may cause harm.
The response outlined below covers situations where the BBFC is considering cutting, or even rejecting, works aimed at adults and containing violence, in the absence of a specific legal prohibition on depiction of the activity.
When considering such intervention, the test the BBFC will apply is whether there is a real, as opposed to a fanciful, risk of harm. Research in this area is contested. There are difficulties both in carrying out such research and in translating
findings from the laboratory to society. However, the difficulty of establishing broad and replicated findings from such research does not mean that there are no harm risks. The research literature, and reviews of it, often warn that certain
works may pose certain risks for certain individuals in certain circumstances.
What the public considers to be potentially harmful is also important. This is not simply because members of the public may have practical experience of harm risks in operation in society which cannot easily be addressed in the lab. Furthermore, the
confidence of the public that the classification system will protect the vulnerable from material that has the potential to cause harm is itself an important indicator of whether the system is effective.
B. The response of the BBFC
This response covers both fictional and documentary (for example "extreme reality" works) which contain sexual and/or sadistic violence.
Intervention is likely in relation to any depiction of sexual or sadistic violence which is likely to pose a non trivial harm risk through, for example:
making sexual or sadistic violence look appealing
reinforcing the suggestion that victims enjoy rape
inviting viewer complicity in rape or other harmful violent activities.
Intervention may also be required in cases where a depiction is so demeaning or degrading to human dignity (for example it consists of strong abuse, torture or death without any significant mitigating factors) as to pose a harm risk.
Material of this nature might also be considered obscene. When considering intervention on the ground of obscenity, the BBFC will take account of the defence of public good and the significance of the overall nature and purpose of the work in
establishing whether or not a work is likely to be found obscene.
The BBFC will also take into account the right to freedom of expression established under the Human Rights Act 1988.
The decision as to whether and how to intervene is complex and subject to a number of aggravating or mitigating indicators which need to be balanced out in order to arrive at a decision.
These indicators are listed below. They are a guide to assist BBFC Examiners in making recommendations in relation to works which are on the edge of suitability for classification according to the BBFC's Classification Guidelines.
The indicators are not designed to be a tick list. No one indicator will of itself necessarily determine the classification of a work. Examiners will balance the indicators and use their judgement when deciding which course of action to recommend --
passing the work uncut; passing the work with cuts; or determining that the work is unsuitable for classification. The presence of one or two aggravating indicators will not necessarily lead a work to be cut or even rejected, if the mitigating
indicators outweigh them. Nevertheless, if Examiners recommend not intervening, they will highlight any aggravating indicators in their reports and justify why they do not lead to intervention.
Each factor listed below is expanded with possible examples of when the factor might come into play.
Does the depiction make sexual or sadistic violence seem normal, appealing, or arousing?
For example, the perpetrators are characters with whom the viewer might identify. The scene is shot in a way which might invite the viewer to identify with the perpetrator(s). Violence is glamorised in a way which could arouse the
viewer. The scene places an emphasis on the sexual pleasure of the perpetrator(s). The sequence offers a "how to" guide on how to perpetrate sexual or sadistic violence. The sequence has the potential to raise concerns about
the enactment of sexual fantasies, particularly among vulnerable viewers.
Is the depiction likely to appeal especially to impressionable or vulnerable viewers, including young men and gang members, with the result that it might influence their behaviour or attitudes in a way which may cause harm?
For example, there is a gang mentality at play which suggests that sadistic or sexual violence can be a bonding experience within a group.
Does the depiction perpetuate any suggestion that victims enjoy rape?
For example, the depiction suggests that women may become sexually aroused through being raped or that "no" means "yes".
Is the depiction of sexual or sadistic violence gratuitous, including in terms of excessive length and/or detail?
For example, the depiction is out of step with what is required by the narrative. The work does not have much of a narrative. Rape features a focus on eroticising detail, such as nudity. The scene wallows in gratuitous
Are children involved in the sequence?
Participants in the 2012 research felt that the rape of children, or the juxtaposition of images of children with sexual violence to be potentially more harmful than any other form of sexual violence.
Does the depiction amount to an unacceptable degradation of human dignity?
For example, the sequence features strong, including real life, abuse, torture, killing or other violence without significant contextual justification or other mitigating factors to the extent that it offers human suffering as entertainment in
itself? Might the sequence be considered significantly to erode viewer empathy?
Does the work make it clear that the violence depicted is not condoned?
For example, the perpetrators of sexual or sadistic violence are punished within a work's narrative. The narrative is balanced. (For example, it does not contain 80 minutes of graphic rape followed by two minutes of mild rebuke.) The
viewer is invited to identify with the victim(s).
Does the work or scene lack credibility in a way which undermines its power?
For example, the work is dated and/or ridiculous. The depiction of sexual or sadistic violence is comic and unlikely to be taken seriously. The sequence is otherwise risible. Low production values can add to the lack of credibility.
Is the scene discreetly shot?
For example, it leaves some detail to the imagination. The scene only as long as the narrative requires it to be. The treatment is in keeping with the narrative.
Is the scene narratively justified?
For example, it is based on a true story or carries a strong anti-rape message. What the viewer sees is necessary to explain character motivation. The work raises awareness of an issue of public concern in a responsible way.
Where there is any nudity is it outside the context of rape?
Most participants in the 2012 research felt that merely combining violent images with nudity, even sexualised nudity, was not necessarily a problem in itself. These viewers drew a clear distinction between rape, where eroticising detail could be
potentially harmful, and violence which is shot in a titillatory way.
In 2008, section 79 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel. And now the film has been passed 18 uncut for a 2012 4Digital home video release.
If I made the film now I would make it very differently, I was exploring areas of dark eroticism, but I had worked chiefly in prints, not films.
People say I should put it out, but on a personal level I have reservations. If I did release it, I would need to put it into context and perhaps release a documentary to accompany it.
The film has now been passed 18 uncut for nudity and sex involving religious images for:
UK 2012 4DigitalRedemption R2 DVD at UK Amazon
for release 26th March 2012
The BBFC have explained their decision to unban the film in a press
Visions of Ecstasy is a 19 minute short film, featuring a sequence in which a figure representing St Teresa of Avila interacts sexually with a figure representing the crucified Christ. When the film was originally submitted to the BBFC in
1989, for video classification only, the Board refused to issue a classification certificate. This decision was taken on the grounds that the publication of the film, which the issue of a BBFC certificate would permit, might constitute an offence
under the common law test of blasphemous libel.
The Board is required, as part of the terms of its designation under the Video Recordings Act 1984, to seek to avoid classifying any work that might infringe the criminal law. Therefore, the Board had no alternative at the time but to refuse a
classification. The Board's decision to refuse a classification to the film was subsequently upheld by the independent Video Appeals Committee.
In 2008, section 79 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel. This means that the BBFC is no longer entitled to consider whether the publication of the film might comprise a
The BBFC has carefully considered Visions of Ecstasy in terms of its current classification Guidelines. These reflect both the requirements of UK law and the wishes of the UK public, as expressed through regular large scale consultation
exercises. With the abolition of the offence of blasphemy, the Board does not consider that the film is in breach of any other UK law that is currently in force. Nor does the Board regard the film as likely to cause harm to viewers in the terms
envisioned by the Video Recordings Act.
The Board recognises that the content of the film may be deeply offensive to some viewers. However, the Board's Guidelines reflect the clear view of the public that adults should have the right to choose their own viewing, provided that the
material in question is neither illegal nor harmful. In the absence of any breach of UK law and the lack of any credible risk of harm, as opposed to mere offensiveness, the Board has no sustainable grounds on which to refuse a classification to
Visions of Ecstasy in 2012. Therefore the film has been classified for video release at 18 without cuts.
The outrage which cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad have provoked among Muslims has prompted much self-righteous blather about the sanctity of free speech. Yet Muslims are not the only ones who seem to find blasphemy beyond the pale, and who believe that religion
should take precedence over liberty. Here in the UK, Christians retain the protection of the law of 'blasphemous libel', a common law offence which forbids the publication of 'contemptuous, reviling, scurrilous or ludicrous matter relating to God'. Although
archaic, this law provides a striking counterpoint to the claim that freedom of expression is an integral part of the British way of life.
Take the case of Visions of Ecstasy , an innocuous (if rather silly) short film depicting 'the ecstatic and erotic visions of St Teresa of Avila' which was banned in the UK in 1989. In the film, St Teresa is first seduced by her own sexual psyche
(played, conveniently, by a photegenic 'babe'), and then mounts and caresses the crucified body of Christ. Technical shortcomings notwithstanding (hands which seem to move freely despite apparently being nailed down) the film raised a problem for the BBFC,
which is forbidden from classifying material which may infringe the laws of the land.
Despite support from the likes of Derek Jarman, the BBFC concluded that, if prosecuted, a 'reasonable jury' was likely to convict Visions of Ecstasy as blasphemous. Not to be defeated, director Nigel Wingrove (who has since helmed the cult nuns-on-heat romp
Sacred Flesh ) took his case to the European Court of Human Rights
, arguing that the very existence of a blasphemy law contravened the freedoms of expression enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights. In a mealy-mouthed ruling, the Court agreed that Freedom of expression constitutes
one of the essential foundations of a democratic society , but with the caveat that freedom carries with it duties and responsibilities including a duty to avoid as far as possible an expression that is, in regard to objects of veneration
[i.e. religion], gratuitously offensive to others and profanatory . Which effectively meant that Wingrove was allowed his freedom of expression unless such freedom offended his Christian peers. In which case, he wasn't...
Visions of Ecstasy remains the only film to be banned in the UK solely on grounds of blasphemy. Yet the issues which the law raises remain a very real concern. Having successfully transformed itself from an autocratic censorship body into one of the
most accountable regulators in the world, the BBFC now rightly prides itself on maintaining a fine balance between the liberal principles of its own classification guidelines and the rigid inflexibilities of certain aspects of the law. In the case of Martin
Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), for example, pre-release protests from Christians alleging blasphemy resulted in the board screening the film to 28 representatives of the UK's major churches, who concluded that it 'was not blasphemous
in the legal sense, although it may have the capacity to offend some Christian viewers'. An 18 certificate was duly awarded.
Despite the clean bill of health, some local councils went ahead and banned The Last Temptation of Christ anyway. The furore followed the movie onto TV, where its transmission provoked a record number of complaints. Similar protests attended the classification
of Dogma (1999), a religious satire staring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck as fallen angels, which provoked a deluge of pre-printed mail shots from sections of the Catholic church demanding that the BBFC ban the movie. The board refused, a decision in
which it was supported by the office of the Archbishop of Westminster which went on the record to say that Dogma was not blasphemous. Still the protests continued.
Less well-rehearsed are the rare cases of cult and 'special interest' movies which have been cut in order to comply with our blasphemy laws. Trash maestro John Waters may have entered the mainstream with multiplex-friendly fare such as Hairspray, Cry Baby
and Serial Mom, but his early underground film Multiple Maniacs (1970) is still considered legally unpassable in its complete form thanks to a scene in which Divine makes nefarious use of a rosary intercut with the Stations of the Cross. More bizarre
still is the case of a hardcore sex video which was submitted to the board last year, featuring sacrilegious dildos being placed where the sun doesn't shine by 'women role playing as nuns'. The video, which was duly cut 'in accordance with the Blasphemy Act
1698', rejoices under the charming title Belladonna: My Ass is Haunted . And no, that's not 'Ass' in the biblical sense of the word.
While there's no doubt that such material is potentially extremely offensive (to me, at least), should we really retain a law which privileges the sensitivities of Christians over those of others? The Last Temptation of Christ may have been reclassified
in 2000 to a more lenient 15 certificate, but Visions of Ecstasy remains banned in the UK to this day, a situation which the BBFC cannot rectify as long as the offence of blasphemy remains on the statute books. In the wake of the recent rebellion
regarding proposed legislation on religious hatred, which, it was claimed, threatened artistic and democratic freedoms, has the time not arrived to repeal Britain's outdated blasphemy law? Only then will we have an even playing field in which freedom of speech
is genuinely sacrosanct, and all religions (and their critics) are granted the same level of protection in the UK.
Slasherama: Zombie Flesh Eaters finally makes its debut on uncut UK DVD on September 19, when it is released as part of Anchor Bay UK's Box Of The Banned. Did you
expect Lucio Fulci's grisly, eye-popping gem to be passed uncut, this time around?
Craig Lapper: Yes. Last time we looked at the uncut version (in 1999) we made a couple of small cuts - to the eye gouging and to some flesh munching. These cuts were made largely because,
according to the Crown Prosecution Service, the uncut version had been successfully prosecuted as obscene as recently as 1994.
Classifying something uncut that had been found obscene by a court as recently as five years ago raised problems for the BBFC, especially given that one of our terms of designation under the Video Recordings Act is to seek to avoid classifying obscene
material. Our lawyers advised that, although we could pass it uncut if we felt standards had changed over the last 5 years, it might be safer to make some small trims. That way we could avoid classifying what the court had found obscene. However, if it
hadn't been for that recent conviction we probably would have passed it uncut back in 1999.
Since 1999, BBFC policy has moved on somewhat. During the 2002 appeal against our decision to cut The Last House On The Left , we had cause to look in more detail at some of those recent obscenity convictions. We found that in many cases,
including the 1994 case involving Zombie Flesh Eaters , the convictions had actually been obtained against huge batches of material (sold, for example, at film fairs) and that the defendant had simply pleaded Guilty, presumably because some of the
other material he was selling was very clearly obscene. However, there was no evidence that a Jury had actually sat and watched Zombie Flesh Eaters or Last House On The Left and considered all the relevant issues. So, relying upon such
convictions as proof of obscenity was unsatisfactory. After we changed our policy to be more sceptical about such convictions, it was clear that Zombie Flesh Eaters would probably be passed uncut if it were resubmitted.
10 Year Rule
For a while the BBFC would always make at least a token cut in videos submitted less than 10 years after a successful obscenity prosecution. This policy has now been abandoned.
Craig Lapper: There was never a 10 year rule enshrined in BBFC rules, our lawyers simply told us that we were obliged not to classify obscene material. Not unreasonably, they stated that the more
recent a conviction was the more of a problem it was likely to be. We set 10 years as a reasonable period, after which public attitudes might have shifted.
Following the certification of several videos with cuts for animal cruelty a debate ensued about why some films are cut and others are not. In particular, Time of the Wolf shows a horse being slaughtered (by having its neck cut) yet it is not cut.
Time then for a clarification of BBFC policy.
The scene in question in Time of the Wolf is not cut because the killing is quick and humane and therefore not illegal. Nonetheless, some people can get squeamish about such things and so it was mentioned it in the consumer
Contrary to popular belief, the Animals Act is only there to prevent the screening of scenes of deliberate cruelty inflicted animals for the purposes of making a film. It does not prohibit scenes showing animals being killed (even if they are killed
solely for the film), provided the killing is swift and humane. Furthermore, it does not seek to prevent documentary footage (even of cruelty) - it is only there to prohibit scenes where a film-maker has deliberately mistreated an animal for filmmaking
purposes. So, documentary footage of animals being killed (or even mistreated) is not prohibited. Furthermore, scenes showing animals being killed (even if it's specifically for the purposes of the film) are not prohibited, provided it is swift and
The ONLY thing the Act prohibits is deliberate cruelty to an animal (including causing it fear and distress) simply for the purposes of creating a work of entertainment. This is why Hollywood horse trips, staged cockfights [note that the
BBFC HAVE passed documentary footage of cockfights], and Ruggero Deodato cutting animals' faces off with machetes in his cannibal movies are cut. By contrast, APOCALYPSE NOW Apocalypse Now with its quick buffalo kill was passed uncut and
documentaries about foxhunting eg Chaos in the Countryside have been passed uncut.
BBFC changed tack on drugs policy after the departure of James Ferman
Soon after James Ferman left the BBFC they initiated a policy review re drug use. The following email was received from the BBFC outlining the latest policy
The BBFC drug policy was revised fairly soon after James Ferman left. Ferman always used to cut close up sight of needles in veins because he believed they had a fetishistic appeal to both existing users and ex-users.
Shots of needles in veins - he believed - would turn on the cravings of addicts and former addicts and make them want to use heroin again. However, expert evidence taken since he left shows that needle in vein shots in fact have no
more hypnotic potential than sight of any other part of the shooting up process. So, although the BBFC may still intervene at 18 where it is felt that drug taking is deliberately being glamorised - or where there is so much detail
that it could genuinely be instructional - the BBFC no longer remove explicit sight of needles in veins. Accordingly, Christiane F was passed 18 uncut for video/DVD release in 2000 after waiving about 5 minutes of previous drug cuts (all
made to comparable images to those in Trainspotting. Similarly all the previous needle in vein cuts originally made to the video of The Panic in Needle Park were waived earlier this year. Explicit detail of injecting no longer worries the
BBFC unless it is so detailed and explicit that a potential user might glean information from it (eg what quantities to mix, what solution to use, how to mix and cook the heroin etc.) The fact that you inject heroin is not in itself something
most people do not know, so provided it's shown aversively (rather than sexily) it's OK at 18 .
Britain's most influential arbiter of public taste, the film censor, is predicting the end of legally
enforced cinema ratings in the UK. In a speech on the future of censorship this week, Robin Duval will argue that greater freedom for film-makers and audiences is on its way.
We are pretty much the only country left to enforce a film rating system by law , he said. In most of northern Europe and the Americas, film regulation is advisory and not mandatory. How long will Britain keep this up? As the internet
and new media become more available, everyone wonders why one medium is regulated by law and another isn't.
Duval, director of the BBFC for just over two years, does not expect all forms of film classification to disappear. He envisages a grading scheme in which parents would be able to take children to seefilms they deem suitable. Existing legislation
covering obscenity and child abuse would then become the only statutory public protection. In contrast, when the late Princess Diana controversially took an under-age Prince Harry to see the 15-certificate film The Devil's Own , the
London cinema involved was threatened with prosecution under the 1985 Cinemas Act.
I suspect film producers will still want their product to be given some sort of bill of health, said Duval, but I think the legal nature of it will change fairly soon. Television will have to have its own ratings system too.
Duval will use his speech at the Royal Society of Arts on Wednesday to call on the Government to rethink its policy on monitoring broadcast standards. New Labour plans for one giant, over-arching watchdog to look after film, television and the internet
are dangerous, he will argue, and are also based on false assumptions.
The Government's parliamentary consultation document on the communications industry, published at Christmas, outlined plans for a new body, dubbed OfCom, to take over the roles of the Independent Television Commission, the Broadcasting Standards Council,
the Radio Authority, the Radio Communications Agency and Oftel.
Duval said: There would be too much power in one institution - a supreme cultural regulator. Video and film would be lost within the broadcast bias of this watchdog.
OfCom has been billed by the Government as a simplification of conflicting standards as the worlds of new media and broadcasting converge. But Duval and his colleagues at the BBFC, including the president, Andreas Whittam Smith, are not convinced by the
argument that filmed entertainment will all soon be delivered via the internet. There are a lot of assumptions being made that people will gravitate towards their homes, said Duval. ' It is doubtful whether the expectation of this great
convergence is justified. People want to have somewhere to go in the evening. There are actually now three times more people going to the cinema than in the middle of the 1980s. Duval believes it will take a long time for the internet to become a
central part of the film business. Sport is still the driving force behind home satellite and digital ownership and no film channel yet receives more than 1 per cent of viewing figures.
Attitudes to sex on screen have been deliberately relaxed since Duval and Whittam Smith have been in charge at the BBFC. We carried out research into public attitudes last year and there was a clear message, said Duval. People believed the
BBFC was being quite unnecessarily nannyish when it came to questions of sex, but attitudes to violence were less tolerant . The BBFC's rating categories would continue to be rigorous over violence. Duval said that although the link between people
seeing violence on screen and committing it was poor, the BBFC had to respond to public feeling.
Public acceptability is one of the BBFC's main criteria for rating films. The only statutory restriction we have is on violence towards animals under the 1937 Animals Act. We also have some restrictions under the Obscene Publications Act, said
The BBFC ensures there is no mention of drugs in U-rated films. Even at PG level, however, there is more scope for referring to illicit substances, while at a 12-rating Duval says audiences are allowed to 'enter the real world', as long as there is no
appearance of promoting drugs. Broadly, we have to steer away from "imitable techniques". And we will not allow any detail of a hanging in a 15-film, he said.
Duval believes he has seen the end of the recent tide of violent horror films. However, he is concerned that the industry is about to erupt into a spate of brutal adventure movies.
In contrast to current British concerns, American censorship has been tougher on sex than violence. In 1929 the Hays Office Code ruled that married couples had to be shown in twin beds and that one foot must stay on the floor in love scenes, lest the
nation's collective morals were damaged.