The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) will tighten their rules on ‘sexual or sadistic violence’. This move comes after new research into public opinion on film violence, and the BBFC’s newly adjusted policies will come into effect in six weeks’ time.
The heightening of public concern over film violence, particularly sadistic or sexual violence, follows the rise and rise of the so-called ‘torture porn’ subgenre, which includes films such as The Human Centipede, The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence), and the Saw franchise.
Research conducted on behalf of the BBFC involved screening controversial films for focus groups. As well as being shown The Human Centipede II, they also watched Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist, Srdjan Spasojevic’s A Serbian Film, and The Bunny Game, a film about a trucker kidnapping and abusing a prostitute, which was banned outright by the BBFC.
In their report, the BBFC stated that ‘…much of the public believe that sexual and sadistic violence are legitimate areas for film-makers to explore…’ but also that the public are ‘concerned by certain depictions which may be potentially harmful’.
The report continued: ‘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.’
BBFC director David Cooke highlighted the difficulties involved in editing violent content: ‘Once again the public have told us that context, tone and impact, and a work’s overall 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.’
Cooke’s statement takes into account that films are subjective as works of art in themselves, and are experienced subjectively by viewers. On the one hand, the right of the filmmaker to express themselves artistically without censorship (or as little as possible, anyway) is paramount; on the other, the normalisation of sadistic and sexual violence, and a distorted societal view of women, are not things we want to see perpetuated through cinema (or at all).
What do you think about the BBFC’s planned stricter policies? Are they overreacting, or have some films really gone too far? Let us know via Twitter.