Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier has agreed to a toned-down cut of his new film Antichrist , which features graphic scenes of sexual mutilation, to satisfy foreign censors, according to his production company.
We reached an agreement with Lars more than a year ago to make a 'Catholic' version of the movie, to cut some scenes and replace them with others, Peter Aalbaek Jensen, the head of the Zentropa production group, told AFP.
Otherwise it would be impossible to sell (it) to prude markets like southern Europe, Asia and the United States, where you can't show a naked man from the front, he said.
The film's close-ups of sex and mutilation were said to have left audiences gasping, squirming and jeering when it was screened on Monday at the Cannes Film Festival.
Jensen said he does not know yet which scenes will be censored and will talk to distributors in these countries to seek out their opinions on the subject.
The uncut version of the film, which opens in Denmark on Wednesday, is one of 20 competing for the Palme d'Or at Cannes. It has been hailed by Danish critics, though viewers in Cannes on Monday gave it both cheers and boos.
It opens with a slow-motion close-up of sexual penetration, veers into a dramatic escalation of violence, and climaxes with an excruciating shot of genital mutilation
UK distributors will submit Antichrist uncut to the BBFC
Perhaps the first film to be judged by the BBFC bearing in mind the Dangerous Pictures Act. It certainly sounds like it will tick at least some of the boxes to make it a dangerous picture. Presumably it won't be defined as a sex works though.
The 'most shocking' film in the history of the Cannes Film Festival is heading for cinema release in Britain, where distributors will attempt to convince the censors that its scenes of torture and pornography should be shown in their entirety.
Lars Von Trier's new film Antichrist has stunned the Cannes Film Festival, eliciting jeers and cries of disbelief from critics who dubbed it art-house torture porn.
The psychological horror film opens with a young child falling to his death through an open window whilst his oblivious parents, played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, have sex nearby in graphically-shot scenes.
The grieving couple retreat to Eden, their cabin in the woods, where the woman becomes increasingly unhinged. In the final quarter of the film, she takes revenge of the most gruesome kind against her husband. The most offensive sequence, which had
critics gasping in disbelief, sees Gainsbourg's character performing an act of genital self-multilation with a pair of scissors.
When distributors expressed fears that the film would not be granted a release in their home countries, the producers said offered an alternative cut - which they described as a good Catholic version - with four extreme sequences excised.
However, the UK distributor which snapped up the rights, Artificial Eye, is determined that Von Trier's original cut be shown.
We will be submitting the film for classification in its current form, a spokesman for the company said. We can't comment on how the British Board of Film Classification will respond, but we are keen for Antichrist to be seen as the director
"We absolutely think the film has good commercial prospects here in the UK. It has polarised the opinions of the critics in Cannes and this has ensured a 'must see' buzz that we can capitalise on for our release.
The BBFC has a history of allowing controversial arthouse films to be shown in their entirety. In 2002, the organisation granted an 18 certificate to another Cannes offering, Gaspar Noé's Irreversible . It featured a nine-minute rape scene
'so graphic' that dozens of female critics walked out of its debut screening.
The BBFC has passed Lars Von Trier's latest film, Antichrist , ‘18' uncut. The film contains images of strong real sex, bloody violence and self mutilation. The BBFC Guidelines for ‘18' rated works state that the more
explicit images of sexual activity will not be allowed unless they can be exceptionally justified by context and the work is not a ‘sex work' whose primary purpose is sexual arousal. For these purposes Antichrist is very clearly not a ‘sex
The film also contains some bloody and violent images, including a scene of genital mutilation. The Board knows of no research evidence which suggests that the viewing of this scene would raise a significant risk of harm to adult viewers or to
society, or which would otherwise justify intervention. There is, therefore, no basis for an exception to the principle, repeatedly endorsed in public consultations, that adults should normally be free to choose what films to watch or not watch.
The film was seen by the Director, David Cooke, the President, Sir Quentin Thomas and Vice President, Gerard Lemos. David Cooke said:
"Antichrist deals with what happens to a couple after the death of their child, focussing on the psychological impact on them both. The film does not contain material which breaches the law or poses a significant harm
risk to adults. The sexual imagery, while strong, is relatively brief, and the Board has since 1990 passed a number of works containing such images. This reflects the principle, strongly endorsed in a number of public consultations, that adults
should be free to decide for themselves what to watch or what not to watch, provided it is neither illegal nor harmful.
"There is no doubt that some viewers will find the images disturbing and offensive, but the BBFC's Consumer Advice provides a clear warning to enable individuals to make an informed viewing choice. And this is now backed up by detailed
Extended Consumer Advice on our website".
Antichrist is an English language drama from director Lars von Trier. It tells the story of a couple trying
to come to terms with the death of their young son. After the mother experiences a mental breakdown, they retreat to an isolated cabin in the woods where the child's father, a therapist, hopes to help the mother to confront her fears. The film was
classified '18' for strong real sex, bloody violence and self-mutilation.
At '18', the BBFC's Guidelines state that the more explicit images of sexual activity are unlikely to be permitted unless they can be exceptionally justified by context and the work is not a 'sex work'. A 'sex work' is defined as a work whose
'primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation'. It is clear that ANTICHRIST is not a 'sex work' but a serious drama exploring issues such as grief, loss, guilt and fear. The brief images of explicit real sex (sight of a penis penetrating a
vagina during a consensual sex scene and sight of the man's penis being masturbated to climax) are exceptionally justified, in this context, by the manner in which they illustrate the film's themes and the nature of the couple's relationship.
Their relationship is depicted throughout in a graphic and unflinching fashion, both psychologically and physically. The BBFC has permitted comparable explicit images in a number of previous features at the '18' level (eg L'EMPIRE DES SENS, 9
SONGS, SHORTBUS and Lars von Trier's earlier film, THE IDIOTS) where it has been clear that the purpose of the work - and the individual images in question - is not simply to arouse viewers but to illustrate characters, relationships and themes.
ANTICHRIST also contains two scenes showing violence towards genitals or genital mutilation. In one case, the man's genitals are hit heavily (although this is not shown on screen), resulting in sight of blood in his semen when he ejaculates. In
the other case, the distraught woman cuts off her own clitoris using a pair of scissors. This act of self-mutilation is shown in close up, although the image is only on screen for a few seconds. The shot in question exceeds the BBFC's Guidelines
at '15', where 'the strongest gory images are unlikely to be acceptable' and where 'violence may be strong but may not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury'. Even at '18' the BBFC recognises that the scene will be shocking and offensive to
some viewers. However, the Board is aware of no evidence to suggest that the viewing of this scene is likely to be harmful to adults. The scene is not presented in an eroticised or attractive manner and is not likely to encourage emulation or
arousal. Accordingly, the scene is acceptable at '18' where, in line with the consistent findings of the BBFC's public consultations, the BBFC's Guideline concerns will not normally override the wish that adults should be free to chose their own
entertainment, within the law.
The film contains other examples of strong violence, including a scene in which the woman drills a hole through the man's leg with a bit and brace before bolting a large grindstone to the injured limb. Once again, although the scene exceeds the
rubric of the '15' Guidelines, it was not felt to be harmful to adult viewers. The film also contains scenes of strong simulated sex, including female masturbation. These scenes exceed the '15' Guideline test that 'Sexual activity may be portrayed
but without strong detail' but are acceptable at the '18' level.
Antichrist also includes a single use of strong language.
Antichrist , which includes graphic unsimulated sex and a scene of genital self-mutilation, has been authorised for release with no cuts by the BBFC.
John Beyer, the director of Mediawatch-UK predictably condemned the BBFC's decision to give Antichrist a mainstream rating:
Films of this sort, with such extreme content, should not be classified for public exhibition anywhere. The BBFC should have declined classification and rejected this film.
We all know that youngsters get into films that are not age appropriate and with a 15-rated trailer, it is being deliberately marketed at a younger audience who will inevitably see the film.
When people are being entertained by mutilation, that is beyond the pale.
Philip Knatchbull, the chief executive of Artificial Eye, which is distributing the film, said:
There is no doubt that Antichrist is a controversial film but it's our duty as a distributor to present the works of talented directors such as Lars von Trier in their original form, exactly as the director intended.
We fully support the BBFC's decision to allow people to make up their own minds about this film.
Julian Brazier the Conservative MP for Canterbury and Whitstable who has campaigned for more film censorship, said:
From the accounts I have heard of Antichrist , this does seem to be one more example of how the BBFC has given up on trying to regulate material which the majority of the public feel is offensive.
Brazier said that an R18 certificate, where films can only be shown in specially licensed cinemas or sex shops, would be more appropriate for Antichrist .
Gainsbourg, the daughter of the British actress Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg, the late French singer, won best actress at Cannes for her role in the film. She has defended von Trier against accusations that the film exploits women. She said:
He is depicting women of course with violence and very hard sex and pain and suffering, but I don't think that he is judging women in a negative way.
Von Trier, who wrote the film while suffering from depression, has said of Antichrist :
The film does not contain any specific moral code and only has what some might call 'the bare necessities' in the way of a plot.
In any case, I can offer no excuse for Antichrist . Other than my absolute belief in the film.
Lars Von Trier's controversial new film featuring two scenes of genital mutilation, Antichrist , will be released commercially in Australia in November.
The Melbourne International Film Festival will screen it this week after a rare intervention by the Australian Classification Board
The censor made the extraordinary request to view the film when the festival announced it would screen it. Normally, the major Australian film festivals are granted special Customs and censorship clearances by the office prohibiting people under 18 from
attending films (except in special sessions). The censor need only view the films if they are due for commercial release. The censor granted the festival its exemption in a letter that arrived on the day the festival opened.
Festival director Richard Moore said the film was a deliberately provocative piece . It's Lars von Trier thumbing his nose in a way at contemporary film, at contemporary filmmaking and his own mystique.
Transmission Films, which acquired the film for Australian distribution last week, expects it to receive an R rating with warnings. The company's joint managing director, Andrew Mackie, said: I hope it's controversial. Mackie said he had given the
director an unconditional guarantee he would not distribute the film in Australia if it needed modification or editing.
As Antichrist approaches its US theatrical release date it has predictably been making waves amongst the usual nutters.
The Christian media ministry MovieGuide is inviting people concerned about the film's 'gruesome and graphic' content to join a petition of the MPAA to rate the movie NC-17, which would not only prevent children from viewing the film, but also
dissuade many theaters from showing it.
Coming to your local theater Oct. 23 is a movie that I can only call the most horrific movie ever seen, writes Dr. Ted Baehr, founder and publisher of Movieguide and chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission. It's called
Antichrist , and it's filled with a wicked worldview, vile pornographic scenes, onscreen mutilation of private parts and some other material which I simply cannot describe to you in a family publication.
We cannot stop this movie, he continues, but we have a strategy which we believe will be the next best thing.
MovieGuide's petition explains three reasons why an NC-17 rating, rather than an R rating for the film, would limit the number of people - especially children - exposed to the movie:
An R rated movie easily makes its way to the cinema in your local neighborhood. Thankfully, many local cinemas still won't show the movie if it's NC-17.
An R-rated movie stands a chance to make more money than NC-17, and this will only encourage some producers in Hollywood to make more vile movies like this.
And most importantly, children under 17 cannot get into movies with an NC-17 rating, unlike R-rated movies, which admit them.
According to MovieGuide's review of the film, William Defoe's newest effort includes demonic activity, full nudity and graphic on-screen depictions of sex, sadomasochism, sexual mutilation with both a block of wood and a pair of scissors, child
abuse, and violent animal acts.
Antichrist is the wicked story of a married couple's plunge into occult darkness as they try to grieve the loss of their son, the review states. This movie wallows in evil and contains extremely graphic pornographic sexual scenes,
much occult content and extreme sadomasochistic violence, making it a movie to avoid.
If the world had standards, this movie would be Triple X and banned, states the site's review of the film. As it is, we are issuing our strongest warning not to see it, and to complain to the MPAA for allowing a movie like this to come
to theaters near you.
A national press ad for the film Antichrist , which appeared in The Times, The Guardian and The Independent, showed a naked man and woman having sex. They seemed to be lying at the base of a tree, from which hands protruded. Text stated WHEN
NATURE TURNS EVIL, TRUE TERROR AWAITS ... 18 CONTAINS STRONG REAL SEX, BLOODY VIOLENCE AND SELF-MUTILATION . The ad contained several quotes from reviews, including ... CINEMA AT ITS MOST EXTREME ... THE STRANGEST AND MOST ORIGINAL HORROR MOVIE OF
THE YEAR ... NOTHING CAN PREPARE YOU FOR THE EXPERIENCE OF ANTICHRIST. NOTHING ... THE MOST SHOCKING FILM IN THE HISTORY OF THE CANNES FILM FESTIVAL ... .
7 complainants, some of whom said the ad's imagery was pornographic, thought the depiction of a naked couple having sex was offensive and inappropriate for publication in a newspaper where it might be seen by children.
ASA Assessment: Not upheld
The ASA considered that the ad, which had a dark tone, was unlikely to cause sexual excitement and was therefore not pornographic.
We were of the view that The Times, The Guardian and The Independent were read mostly by adults and, although the possibility of children seeing the ad in those publications could not be ruled out, we considered it unlikely. If children did see the ad,
we considered it was not particularly explicit and the dream-like context, introduced by the hands protruding from the tree (or roots), had the effect of making the image of the naked couple seem removed from reality. We noted the film itself contained
graphic scenes of sex, and considered that readers would understand that the image of the naked couple in the ad was relevant to the advertised product.
We considered that the ad did not go too far in its depiction of the film's content, and was unlikely to be seen as irresponsible or cause serious or widespread offence to readers of The Times, The Guardian and The Independent.
Antichrist is a 2009 Denmark/Germany/France/Sweden/Italy/Poland drama by Lars Von Trier. With Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Storm Acheche Sahlstrøm.
The film was banned in France in February 2016
Promouvoir, an extremist Catholic pressure group initiated a court case some time ago claiming that the films local 16 rating was incorrect and that the film should be restricted to adults only. The moralists won the case and the court agreed that the
film is unsuitable for under 18 and revoked the film's 16 certificate.
Until the film can be re-rated, it is banned from cinema and TV.
The BBFC explained some of the censorship issues when issuing an uncut 18 rating:
At '18', the BBFC's Guidelines state that the more explicit images of sexual activity are unlikely to be permitted unless they can be exceptionally justified by context and the work is not a 'sex work'. A 'sex work' is defined as a
work whose 'primary purpose is sexual arousal or stimulation'. It is clear that ANTICHRIST is not a 'sex work' but a serious drama exploring issues such as grief, loss, guilt and fear.
The brief images of explicit real sex (sight of a penis penetrating a vagina during a consensual sex scene and sight of the man's penis being masturbated to climax) are exceptionally justified, in this context, by the manner in
which they illustrate the film's themes and the nature of the couple's relationship. Their relationship is depicted throughout in a graphic and unflinching fashion, both psychologically and physically.
The BBFC has permitted comparable explicit images in a number of previous features at the '18' level (eg L'EMPIRE DES SENS, 9 SONGS, SHORTBUS and Lars von Trier's earlier film, THE IDIOTS) where it has been clear that the purpose of
the work - and the individual images in question - is not simply to arouse viewers but to illustrate characters, relationships and themes.
Buoyed by their success in getting the 16 age rating for Antichrist overturned, religious extremists at Promouvoir (Promote) are now setting their sights on Quentin Tarantino's 12 rated The Hateful Eight .
The Catholic group is now threatening to have Quentin Tarantino's new film pulled from cinemas. They claim that the film had been granted its certificate illegally .
It also threatened to take action against the French teen film Bang Gang , one of the hits of this year's Toronto film festival.
The French 12 rating for Blue is the Warmest Colour was withdrawn in December 2016 over its extended lesbian scenes. This was the result of court case issued by the religious campaign group Promouvoir (Promote). Abdellatif Kechiche's film is
currently banned from cinema and TV and as the film has not yet received a revised certificate.