G๖teborg International Film Festival 2009
23rd Jan - 2nd Feb
Up until the mid-1990s, things were quite different. Censorship in Sweden was extremely tough and most movies featuring violence were trimmed, martial arts- and splatter movies were usually banned. In the 1980s, a movie like RoboCop was cut to
shreds, and before that even James Bond movies were censored!
On the other hand, Sweden has never been squeamish about language, sex and nudity, meaning that films that got into trouble abroad - in countries like the U.S.A. and England - passed without any cuts at all in Sweden.
Sometimes, they even got - and still get - lower ratings than in the rest of the world. A recent example is Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make A Porno , a foul-mouthed comedy about pornography. This one was rated "11" in Sweden, meaning
you can get in if your eleven - or together with and adult if you're younger. Smith's film is considered harmless.
Also, art-house movies have never gotten into trouble in Sweden, especially not the ones directed by famous, respected directors. This means that Pasoloni's infamous Sal๒ played theaters without any cuts and was regarded an important movie about fascism.
The Gothenburg Film Festival; Scandinavia's largest film festival, starts on January 23. During the festival, artist Markus ึhrn's movie Magic Bullet will be screened. ึhrn has taken every cut made by the Board from 1934 until 2002 and
edited them together to a 55 hour long odyssey of upsetting and offensive images. 55 hours!
I don't know if it really is every single cut made, but that's what ึhrn claims on the movie's homepage. Since his movie - or piece of art? - spans several decades, we'll see what was considered offensive during certain time periods. Magic Bullet
is supposed to contain everything from violence in cartoons (Donald Duck with a machine gun), ultra-violence from horror and action movies, violent hardcore porn, and rather innocent scenes of nudity.
During the festival, there will also be several seminars and discussions about movie censorship.
One of the events at the Gothenburg Film Festival this year was to be Markus Öhrn's Magic Bullet installation,
showing forty-nine hours of all of the film ever censored in Sweden
After viewing Magic Bullet one really has to wonder what possible difference it could have made if none of the cuts to films which it gathers together had ever been made. It is a small step then to wonder also, whether the likes of the SBB, and in
the United Kingdom the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), should just close their doors.
Well, it could be argued that they have, indeed that they did some time ago, as what they do now is not "censorship" at all: what they are now are the classification services they publicly claim to be. The BBFC, for instance, claims it
seeks to maintain a balance between the liberal principles of its own classification guidelines and the rigid inflexibilities of certain aspects of the law in Britain. Most cuts made by the BBFC are agreed in consultation with film directors in
relation to their own commercial concerns surrounding the likely impact of the classification licence awarded on box office returns.
A key activity of the BBFC is to undertake what is, in effect, "market research", aimed at ascertaining what the film consumer is likely to find objectionable, unacceptable, unsuitable for children, and so on, in relation to range of
themes and subjects. To the extent to which it engages in this kind of activity, one could say the BBFC is part of the bigger cultural machinery whose purpose is to match up the consumer with the cultural product. It helps to mediate between
distributors and, for the most part, anxious-parent consumers; the former generally wanting to meet their target audiences' expectations and the latter wanting to know in advance what they are likely to get in terms of raw imagery.