We probably don’t think about this too often, but films shown in the UK are still subject to censorship. This is through the British Board of Film Classification.
Censorship, of course, affects not only what gets screened in the UK, but also the way films are produced as well. Filmmakers might want to ensure that a film is classified into a particular ‘category’ and therefore avoid showing a certain level of sexual intimacy or using particular words.
A Serbian Film was censored in 2010, with a total of 4m 12s of footage being cut from the original in order to obtain its 18 certificate. The BBFC claimed that it was cut as it was unacceptable to screen any scenes that ‘eroticised’ sexual violence, yet critics have said that examiners did not take into account the political message of the film, which the certificate-holding version now lacks.
The BBFC evidently has to toe a careful line between complaints of too much censorship and complaints that films are not censored enough. Its 2010 report reveals letters from a whole range of busybodies, from those who disapproved of gay sex scenes in The Kids Are All Right and I Love You Philip Morris to mothers worried about the way rabbits destroy a warren in Watership Down.
These busybodies were exactly the same reason the BBFC was set up in 1912. In its first few years, films could be rejected for anything from ‘indecorous dancing’ to ‘relations of capital and labour’. Yet many of the conversations that were taking place in the 1910s are being repeated today. To what extent should sex and violence be allowed to feature in films, and does the exposure of these to children have a negative effect on their behaviour?
A friend mentioned that censorship was almost pointless these days, since people can access whatever they like online. Those who want to watch The Human Centipede II, the only film banned completely in 2010, could easily download it. The fact that it has been banned probably enhances curiosity so that even more people will have the desire to watch it.
I am no more a fan of eroticised scenes of sexual violence than the next person; but given that we all essentially have free access to whatever we like these days, is there even a point to the BBFC any more?
As far as the Internet is concerned, issues of copyright are taking priority, and it remains to be seen how this huge issue for all arts and entertainment industries will be resolved. The question of censorship and children’s access to unadvised material is barely discussed in the face of this giant threat to profits. I believe this will be the case for some time.