SPCS Appeals “Irreversible” Classification
SPCS Appeals “Irreversible” Classification
SPCS has sought the leave of the Secretary of Internal Affairs to appeal the classification decision of the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) with respect to the French sex-violence film “Irreversible”. The application dated 2 May 2003 has been made pursuant to s. 47 of the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 (hereinafter called “the FVPC Act”). The OFLC classification was registered on the 28th of April 2003 and will be published on Wednesday 14th May in the OFLC List of Decisions (April). Any applicant for review has until Thursday 26th of June 2003 to seek a review, “30 working days” from the date of publication of the decision. SPCS has lodged its application almost 8 weeks prior to the deadline. Because of widespread public concern over the “objectionable” contents of this film Society is making its submission public.
Submission to Mr Christopher Blake, Secretary of Internal Affairs Re Irreversible (OFLC Decision 300049).
The film Irreversible was submitted in video recording format (VHS/PAL) on January 10 2003 to the Film and Video Labelling Body by Mr Anthony T. Timpson on behalf of 2Brothers Films, for the purpose of classification. It is intended, as stated by the applicant, in his application to the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) for a classification fee waiver, to be screened at the “[Beck’s] Incredible Film Festival which screens in Auckland & Wellington during the months of April-May-June.” [endnote 1]. Timpson, who is the director of this film festival sponsored by Becks Beer, describes it as “a one person operation” in his application for fee waiver. (Timpson was granted the fee waiver by Chief Censor Bill Hastings, receiving a $750 reduction, at the taxpayers’ expense). The Labelling Body submitted Irreversible for classification on 13 January 2003.
On 28th of April 2003 the OFLC issued its classification (Ref. No. 300049) for Irreversible and the decision is scheduled to be published on Wednesday 14th May in the OFLC List of Decisions (April). It was classified:
Objectionable except if the availability of the publication is restricted for the purpose of study in a tertiary institution, or for the purpose of exhibition as part of the 2003 Beck’s Incredible Film Festival or a film festival organised by an incorporated film society, and in all cases to persons who have attained the age of 18 years.
The “descriptive” note by the Classification Office, which must accompany all advertising of the film, states:
“Contains brutal sexual violence, graphic violence and sex scenes”.
No other publication has ever been classified in New Zealand with censors’ warning note that includes the word “brutal sexual violence”. No other film has ever been classified and cleared for restricted public screening that:
contains nine-minute “real time” footage involving the explicit and graphic depiction of the anal rape of a pregnant young woman (Alex) by a homosexual man who carries out the rape fantasising that he is raping a young virgin boy. Alex’s face is destroyed by the rapist in a harrowing and frenzied attack. The rapist is shown earlier sniffing drugs as he rapes Alex. The OFLC decision notes on page 9 that the amyl nitrate is “presumably used to increase sexual response.”
Depicts a rape scene filmed by a director who has stated publicly that he had to hold the camera on the floor to avoid getting aroused and having consequent movement of the camera. [See endnote 2. He notes that erections unsettle his steady hand]
“recommends that the exhibitors provide telephone numbers for Rape Crisis and sexual abuse services at the end of the film” because it will so “shock and repulse” most viewers, that some may need psychological and emotional rehabilitation.
Was screened at a film festival (Cannes) and caused over 200 people to walk out in protest over the “sick” and “gratuitous” depiction of sexual violence, over 20 requiring medical assistance.
has a script that consists almost entirely of an unrelenting and almost non-stop barrage of expletives directed at homosexuals and women – two classes of persons protected from discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1993.
Under s. 21(1) of the Films, Videos, and Publications Act 1993 (“the FVPC Act”) the Classification Office sought assistance with the classification of Irreversible from representatives from the Wellington Independent Rape Crisis (Inc), Dr Meryl M. McKay, a consultant clinical psychologist for the Hutt Valley District Health Board and Nicholas Reid, a media commentator and film reviewer; all of whom provided written submissions to the Office expressing their views on the film. The Office also consulted a 26-member focus group recruited by an independent agency to be roughly representative of the New Zealand population in terms of gender, ethnicity, family status and age. All these consultants were shown the film by the OFLC.
2. OFLC Consultations/submissions received with SPCS comments.
2.1 Nicholas Reid, media commentator and film reviewer wrote:
…from a censorship perspective there are three major difficulties with this film.
The “revenge” killing near the beginning is not only explicit and repugnant … but it COULD be seen as justified by the rest of the film. Despite your [presumably the Chief Censor Bill Hasting’s] comments to me that the wrong man was killed, this was not in fact clear to me on my one viewing. What was (presumably) an intended level of irony was lost on me, as was a (likely) anti-vigilante idea. Given the even-more-explicit rape that comes later in the film, this murder COULD be seen as justified by some audiences.
… The rape is central to what it [this film] is about. I have heard the Rape Crisis argument that it needs to be shown in detail to convey its horror and serve as a deterrent. Yet there is something very calculated in the director’s choosing to give us eight (or nine?) unedited minutes of real time activity from a fixed camera position, after he has chosen to shoot the rest of the film with a very mobile camera and with much in-sequence editing. He is, in effect, forcing us to watch every detail. I am in two minds as to how much this is in fact exploitation. Personally, I was able to distance myself from much of it by saying that it was simply a fully-clothed actor simulating rape while he shouted obscenities, but the additional post-rape violence (particularly kicking her face) still disturbed me. I do not think I am especially squeamish in these matters, but I did find that shocking.
The film consistently associates negative sexuality with anal intercourse – not only in the rape, but also in the milieu where the revenge killing takes place. The dialogue also contains more anti-homosexual terms (“faggot” “queer” etc.) than any recent film I can recall. How real is the possibility that all this could be seen as encouraging anti-homosexual stereotyping?
Many viewers who would be quite happy to watch other R18 material would not be happy to watch this.
[Mr Reid’s submission is dated Monday 24 March 2003 and was received by OFLC on 27th March 2003].
SPCS Comments: The criminal activities Mr Reid highlights (rape, murder, infliction of extreme violence and extreme cruelty) come under s. 3(2)(b) and s. 3(2)(f) of the FVPC Act and are depicted, as he notes, in a manner that “COULD” be viewed by some viewers as exploitative (eg. “forcing us to watch every detail” of the rape scene), tantamount to justifying the horrific and degrading outrages, tending to promote or support the activity and as gratuitously glorifying the activities by normalising them. The eroticising of aspects of the rape scene by the sexualized objectification of the rape victim is an obvious concern. The vilification of homosexuals and the promotion of dangerous myths about rape and its victims are other concerns highlighted that are dealt with under s. 3(3) of the FVPC Act. Mr Reid begins by stating:
It is hard for me to comment on the censorship issue without also considering aesthetic matters. Personally, I think this film is made with a lot of artistic integrity.
He fails to identify any aspect of the film’s artistic integrity. Clearly there are none that are of sufficient merit to override the injurious nature of the objectionable content in this film he highlights and thereby provides a possible justification for its release into a film festival when it so clearly constitutes an objectionable publication applying the FVPC Act.
2.2 The Public focus group.
All the 35 people who agreed to view Irreversible and give their views to the Classification Office were recruited by AC Nielson, a recruiting company regularly employed by the Classification Office. The Office released its report “prepared by an [unnamed] independent researcher” [OFLC decision Ref. No. 33349, p. 6] based on this public consultation, to SPCS and it states:
AC Nielson approached people who had previously participated in their research projects and had indicated a willingness to be invited to contribute again. With the nature of the content having been explained to them, 35 people agreed to attend the screening and to give their views on the classification of Irreversible. On the day 26 people arrived to watch the film and give their views…. It [the screening] was preceded by a presentation from the Chief Censor on the aspects of the film that the audience should consider when deciding on their recommended classification… Four members of the audience left during the screening, none returned. All four completed a questionnaire… Over half the audience (15 people) recommended a classification of Objectionable for the film as it had been shown to them... Two people recommended ‘other’ classifications, but did not specify what those should be… Ten people who recommended Objectionable said that their recommendation would change if cuts were made to the film. Of the 15, only four people indicated that they would not revise their classification if cuts were made to the film. These included three of the four people who had left during the course of the film, and one other person… In all, 17 people from the audience of 26, indicated that cuts should be made…One person gave no indication of their view on this matter… Twenty-three of the respondents thought that Irreversible was unsuitable to be shown on television…. One person commented on the content of the film in these terms: “Misogyny, racism, homophobia. It’s a hate film”. Some of the audience feared “copycat” emulation. [italics added]
SPCS Comments: It is significant that 15 of the 26 people (58%) who viewed the film rated it “Objectionable” and four of these 15 walked out in disgust after recording their classification rating. They did so after carefully considering those aspects of the film that Chief Censor Bill Hastings had asked them to consider – the rape and the brutal killing that come at the beginning of the film. Because 2 of the 26 people did not provide an answer to the question of the film’s classification in terms of the FVPC Act, choosing instead to put “other” [see endnote 3]; their answers cannot be taken into account on the issue of rating. The only meaningful statistic to be derived from the response is: 15 out of 24 (63%) rated the film “Objectionable”.
As no excisions were recommended by the OFLC in its decision, it is clear that the Chief Censor failed to consider the majority view of the public (17 out of 25 = 68%) who considered the law required the film banned. While the Act allows for excisions, it is a well-known fact that the Franco-Argentinian director of the film, Gaspar Noe, has stated publicly that he will not allow his film to be screened if excisions are made to it. So impressed is he by the “integrity” of the film that he will not have it subject to any form of cuts. The OFLC established that cuts were viewed by some of the members of the public who had recommended that it be banned, as the only remedy enabling the classification to be downgraded. However, the OFLC ignored all of their suggestions and released an objectionable publication regardless.
2.3 Four Independent Rape Crisis (Inc.) workers/volunteers
Five members of the IRC viewed the film at the OFLC on Tuesday the 11th of March 2003 and issued an undated report “largely based on the views of four of the women.” [OFLC decision Ref. No. 300049, p. 3. The members of the Collective expressed the view:
[the film] dangerously perpetuated certain myths about rape and women… the film did promote and support unacceptable … attitudes towards women.
Three of the four IRC members wanted cuts made to “the rape scene … eradicating the eroticism and sexualized objectification of the rape victim, which tends to promote sexual violence.” They added:
It is imperative that the rape scene does not depict any sexual pleasure that may be interpreted as joint pleasure between the rapist and Alex. Any such pleasure would reinforce the myth that women do enjoy rape. The caressing also may portray to men that raping women is something that is desirable and that their own sexual desires (which are gratified through rape) should outweigh those desires of the woman. This theme of male domination is disturbingly run throughout the movie, so any reference to it in the rape scene should be eradicated.
This concern is reinforced by the comments of the Director himself that he had to hold the camera on the floor to avoid getting aroused and having consequent movement of the camera. If this is the case, it is imperative not to support this arousal for other male audience members… one member [expressed the view that] the middle section of the [rape] scene is gratuitous and completely unnecessary and should be cut….
Three members were unanimous in concluding that the scene after the murder, which shows the face of a young male by-stander, should be cut…. What we found completely objectionable was the comment and value attachment that the film made on the violence and the revenge…. It is completely socially irresponsible and not at all in the interests of the public good that the film go further than that and surround the murder/revenge with attitudes of approval, awe, encouragement and glorification. The depiction of the young by-stander watching the violence encapsulated these attitudes, and should therefore be cut. [Emphasis added]
The collective called for a warning note that “must be explicit enough to warn women (and particularly those women who may have experienced rape or sexual abuse in the past) of the brutality of the rape and violence… the Note must not serve to sexualize the rape scene or in any way make the sexual violence sound erotic or desirable.”
IRC was clearly very troubled by the “theme of male domination” that “disturbingly run throughout the movie” and called for the total eradication (= excision) of those elements in the nine-minute anal rape scene that eroticised the criminal act, reinforced the myth that women do enjoy rape” [emphasis in original], sent the message to men that raping women is something desirable in that it is sexually satisfying to both rapist and his victim, tended to promote sexual violence by the “sexualized objectification of the rape victim” and “de-sensitized” viewers to the horrors of sexual violence by depicting it as a turn-on to women. IRC recognised the “sexual brutality” depicted as so excessive and shocking in its effect that it recommended that the Office should make it mandatory for exhibitors to include the IRC contact phone number in all advertising. This desperate move to provide an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff after knowingly allowing an audience to be brutalised by the shocking, vile and disgusting images of depraved human behaviour is curious to say the least.
The decision of the OFLC not to require any excisions means that Irreversible is Objectionable as screened in the view of three out of four of the Rape Crisis consultants. The submission states that the film’s apparent comment and value attachment on the violence and the revenge, consisting of “approval, awe, encouragement and glorification” encapsulated in the depiction of the bystander who witnesses a murder, is “objectionable” and “socially irresponsible”.
SPCS agrees with Rape Crisis that the most offensive scene in the film is the nine or ten minute, graphic, detailed anal rape of a young woman by a homosexual man who is fantasising that he is raping a boy virgin. The rape scene thereby depicts a child rape fantasy. The length of this graphic sequence alone makes it a “gratuitous, exploitative and offensive depiction of violence with a very high degree of impact… (and) sexual violence” (to quote the new Australian OFLC guidelines for films and computer games). It agrees with that the film “promotes and supports” unacceptable behaviour and attitudes towards women and that it “dangerously perpetuated”myths about rape and women. Dr Meryl M McKay, Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Dr McKay having noted in her report dated 18 March 2003 that she had not viewed the FVPC Act 1993 states:
The dominant theme of this film is violence, sex and rape. This film contains images of people engaging in violent behaviour in order to appease their own emotional state. The film also associates drugs with sex, and violence as sexually arousing. Images of violence, domination, drug usage, unsafe sex and physically harmful sex are portrayed to the viewer in a way that some viewers may perceive them as normal or common place. This may result in the viewers considering the perpetuators of these behaviours to be role models.
The sound effects, artistic photography [etc.] leaves the viewer physiologically aroused while at the same time they are cognitively unable to come to a logical interpretation. In this way the film aims to emotionally arouse the viewer and perhaps emotionally bind the viewer to acts of dominance and violence.
The violent scene in the Rectum Club … gives the clear message that such acts are sexually stimulating. This is evidenced by some of the onlookers masturbating during the violent behaviour. There was little attempt to balance this with showing the consequences for the person when they behave in an antisocial and violent manner.
During the anal rape of the woman there is a mixture of pleasure, violence and the use of drugs, the scene lasted a length of time that may result in some viewers becoming sexually aroused along with other physiological arousal associated with anxiety, fear, excitement, revulsion etc.
While committing the rape the man is totally self-absorbed in achieving his own pleasure assisted by the use of drugs and derogatory comments to his victim. His self-absorption with his own pleasure continued after the anal rape act and at a time when his victim is writhing around on the ground and is portrayed as suffering pain. When he eventually becomes aware of her he proceeds to physically violently attack her by destroying her facial beauty and in so doing he is destroying what had just been the source of his sexual pleasure. This may give viewers the undesirable message that we may destroy with impunity that which gives us pleasure.
SPCS Comments: As Dr McKay stated, her “purpose of viewing and reporting on this film was to assess the psychological effect on people viewing the film and the likelihood of the film compelling the viewers to behave in a similarly violent manner.” The Society wishes to draw to the attention of the Secretary of Internal Affairs the limited scope of Dr McKay’s analysis. The Films Act while not primarily focused on public moral matters, does not exclude such considerations as it defines certain activities (eg. rape, extreme violence and necrophilia), if condoned, promoted or supported in any way, “injurious to the public good”. The safeguarding of the public “good” most definitely has a moral dimension and is not limited to actual physical harm. The degrading of demeaning of women via the dominant message of a film is not something that can necessarily be measured by a clinical test establishing physical harm.
The salient fact of Dr McKay’s admission that she had “not viewed” the FVPC Act calls into question the value of her “recommendation” that “this film could be restricted to an Adult Film Festival and be restricted to viewers on the basis of age”. She recommends this restriction as she considers it will prevent viewers from “becom[ing] physically violent or sexually violent towards others” during or after the screening. The Society takes the view that a good understanding of section 3 of the Act is critical to the question of how it should be made available. Dr McKay has little if any knowledge of the Act, having not read it, and ignores a wealth of international published research data that has highlighted the link between exposure to images of violence and sexual violence and the increased propensity of viewers of such material to act out such behaviour.
McKay concludes: “ It would be difficult to show any clear causal effect this film would have on viewers in terms of their propensity to become physically violent or sexually violent towards others.” Has she not read the Morris report or been informed by the OFLC of public statements by Chief Censor Bill Hastings referring to these links?
The Films Act was preceded by the Morris Report on Pornography [endnote 4]. That Inquiry focused particularly on the effect which pornography has on women and the recommendations made in that report were directed particularly to prohibiting or limiting the class of visual material which depicts the use of violence or coercion in association with sexual behaviour. The Committee received extensive evidence on the claimed harmful effects of pornographic material [see endnote 5]. The Morris Report required a heavy onus on those who seek to displace otherwise objectionable depictions by referring to “overriding” merit. The way in which the Morris proposals were brought forward into the Films Act is apparent for the Proposals for Legislation released by the Minister of Justice, Mr W P Jeffries in 1990. The Films Act, in effect, strengthened the Morris recommendation by providing that material which Morris considered should be placed under the presumption of objectionability should be deemed objectionable were it to promote or support or tend to promote or support the matters referred to. In that case, the censoring authorities were to have no discretion.
Dr McKay identifies how the vile cocktail of sex, drugs and violence in Irreversible drags the viewer on an emotional roller-coaster, and deprives them of cognitive functions that would enable them to come to some logical interpretation of the criminal behaviour gratuitously presented. She identifies the scenes where the viewer could be “emotionally bound to acts of dominance and violence.” She considers the terminology used in the film – she gives the example of the name of the gay sex club “The Rectum” – further adds to the likelihood of emotional turmoil. She refers to images of men [masturbating while] watching scenes of gross violence and deriving sexual stimulation and gratification, noting that they have the effect of supporting and promoting such extreme violence. “There was little attempt to balance this with showing the consequences for a person when they behave in an antisocial and violent manner”. (The Rape Crisis Collective referred to these types of depictions as “socially irresponsible”).
The gratuitous depiction of anal rape is of such a duration and emotional intensity that she notes “that [it] may result in some viewers becoming sexually aroused along with other physiological arousal associated with anxiety, fear, excitement, revulsion.” The film thereby contravenes s. 3(2)(a) and s. 3(2)(f) of the Act by tending to promote and support sexual violence and extreme violence. Given that the film director has admitted his practical problems (lack of a steady hand on the camera) in filming the anal rape of a young woman, due to his own strong feelings of sexual arousal engendered by his close-up view of the rear-end “action”, it would not be too difficult to imagine violent homosexuals, sexual perverts, and dysfunctional heterosexuals, getting highly aroused during a nine-minute eroticised rape scene.
A competent psychologist with a good understanding of section 3 of the FVPC Act and the literature dealing with exposure to sexual violence and its effects on viewers, would have to support the majority view (63%; 15 out of 24) of the public focus group, that this film is “Objectionable”.
The OFLC Decision Ref. No. 300049.
Concerning the rape of Alex, the Office decision notes:
As he rapes Alex the man threatens and taunts her continually, in a kind of obscenely misogynistic running commentary that includes, “Spread your legs, bitch”, “Take this in your ass, cunt” and “You shit on me and you’re dead”. When the act is over the rapist rolls off, apparently satiated, leaving Alex retching and in pain.
The rape is followed by a vicious beating when the rapist becomes aware that Alex is creeping away. He stands over her and kicks her face, then kneels over her, punching her face and smashing her head against the ground, all the while issuing a constant stream of abuse.
The whole scene is shown in real time as apparently unedited footage. During the nine minutes of the depiction of rape, the camera remains steady a few feet from Alex’s face.
The Office then seeks to address the question of whether or not “the film depicts sexual violence in a manner that provides encouragement for further acts”, noting:
Eroticisation of a violent act may make it appear desirable. The experience of sexual arousal and the association of pleasure with violence increase the possibility that some male viewers would identify with the rapist…. Dr McKay notes the association of pleasure with violence (and the use of drugs) and the potential for sexual arousal in the rape scene. She also states that the film “aims to emotionally arouse the viewer and perhaps emotionally bind the viewer to acts of dominance and violence.”
Two members [of Rape Crisis] are particularly concerned that the scene contains elements that eroticise sexual violation. They specifically mention the sexualised objectification of the rape scene. Reviewers tend to agree. A representative criticism is this from Salon editor Andrew O’Hehir, who calls Alex “almost outrageously sexualised by a clingy silk dress that dramatically outlines her nipples and drapes the curves of her buttocks”. The deliberate presentation of Alex as a beautiful and sexy young woman is underlined when the camera stalks Alex as she goes down the subway, effectively implicating the audience as voyeurs of imminent violation.
The presentation raises concerns that Alex’s sexualised appearance and elements such as the rapist’s fondling of Alex’s body may support an interpretation of joint pleasure between rapist and victim… if viewers identify with the rapist they may focus on his gratification… Showing the rape in real time offers the maximum opportunity for misogynistic pleasure, including sexual pleasure…
The OFLC has gone out of its way, against all the evidence obtained from consultants and overseas reviews, to reject the facts that this depiction of rape is voyeuristic, gratuitous, highly eroticised to the point that many viewers could find sexual stimulation in viewing it. The Office has clearly bought into the spurious argument advanced by one reviewer that “at a structural level the film” is “moral” merely because the film starts with the rape rather than climaxing with it [endnote 6].
For an Office that so categorically asserts that it is not involved in considerations of questions of morality, it is ironic that it swallows naively this “moral” ‘argument’.
In dealing with one “horrific act of extreme violence” in the film involving a fire-extinguisher being used to strike the head of a victim 20 times until it was “beaten to misshapen pulp”; the Office fails to apply the law as intended by parliament. The depiction of this violence sends a “clear message that such acts are sexually stimulating” as Dr McKay notes in her report and does little to balance the antisocial and violent behaviour shown with a depiction of consequences. The Office disregards the clear warning by Dr McKay, supported by the Rape Crisis Collective, that the depiction of the violence tends to promote, legitimise, support and endorse such depravity, demonstrating amid the backdrop of a gay sex club - given over to sexual stimulation via acts of sadomasochism – that sexual stimulation by means of extreme violence is a legitimate human response. The normalising of such sexual violence by its gratuitous, eroticised (with elements of promotion) and extensive coverage for the sake of ‘entertainment’ is contrary to the law.
The Office notes that it “is aware that viewers who already have a propensity for extreme violence or misogyny might take pleasure in the death and suffering of the victims. However, for the vast majority of the audience the effect is likely to be shocking and disturbing. Viewers may experience physical discomfort and acute emotional turmoil.”
The Office provides no evidence that a significant number of the types of individuals drawn to see this film will not take pleasure in the death and suffering of the victims. The Becks Incredible Film Festival is open to anyone 18 years and over who wishes to attend the screening of this depraved film. Sex perverts could be drawn to it like bees to a honey pot. The Classification Office’s arguments amount to mere assertion. The facts it chooses to ignore are that ~ 63% of the general public who viewed Irreversible classified it Objectionable. The majority of those consulted demanded cuts to the film before it screens publicly. And yet, incredibly, the Office argued that:
A greater injury to the public good would ensue if excisions were made to make the film more palatable, thereby desensitising its audience to the horror of rape.
This fallacious argument reveals the basis of the OFLC’s bias, continuing promotion and ‘justification’ of greater levels of sexual violence and explicit sex in films. A film depicting a violent rape with a level of intensified horror, torture and degradation many magnitudes greater than Irreversible could be justified by the Chief Censor using this same spurious argument. Any call for a cut to reduce the level of gratuitous violence and eroticised presentation would be dismissed by the Chief Censor and his censors as injurious to the public good because it desensitises the audience to the horror of rape!
This inversion of what constitutes the “injury” to the public good to mean the very opposite of what it is normally accepted to mean, is a hallmark of the extreme liberal mindset that characterises postmodernism. Those like SPCS calling for a reduction in gratuitous violence and the exploitation of sexual violence and nudity in publicly screened films etc. are accused under this misguided postmodern mindset of committing “injury” (as re-defined by the OFLC) to the “public good”. Circular reasoning!!
Ironically the fact is that current censors are already victims of the very desensitisation process they try and deny exists. When they do grudgingly admit that the increased depiction of graphic violence may have “the potential danger that audiences will become desensitised to this level of violence” they then try and justify the acceptability of increased levels of violence on the basis that audiences need a heavier dosage because they have become so desensitised by excessive exposure to violence!
This vicious cycle is driven by the OFLC’s inability to apply the law to publications like Irreversible. The SPCS asks: Why does the OFLC bother to ask its consultants about possible excisions when it is already committed to treating excisions as instruments of the infliction of public injury, rather than as a remedy to prevent injury to the public good? Why did the OFLC bother to ask its consultants about recommended cuts to Irreversible when the film director Gaspar Noe has already made it impossible for distributors to screen the film with any cut? Why were the consultants not informed that excisions were never an option?
Audience collapse with exposure to Irreversible’s sexual violence
Irreversible was one of the last films to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival last year and proved so shocking that 250 people walked out, some needing medical attention. “Film critics walked out of Thursday’s screening, describing it as “sick” and “gratuitous”. Fire brigade spokesperson Lieutenant Gerard Courtel said: “In 25 years in my job I’ve never seen this at Cannes festival. The scenes in this film are unbearable, even for us professionals.” Even Monica Bellucci, who plays the star role of “Alex” (who is sodomised) admits she cannot watch some of the scenes without looking away.
See: Cannes film sickens audiences (26 May 2002 BBC News).
Cannes VIPs Walk Out of ‘Irreversible’ Violence (24 May 2002 Yahoo! Movies)
The fact that the OFLC decision includes the recommendation that the exhibitors provide telephone numbers for Rape Crisis and sexual abuse services at the end of the film is proof of the potential for injury to the public good.
The Society is convinced that the OFLC has failed to apply sections 3(2) and 3(3) of the FVPC Act correctly in the classification of Irreversible and has failed to take full account of the serious concerns raised by its own OFLC appointed consultants. The Society seeks the leave of the Secretary of Internal Affairs to appeal the decision of the OFLC with respect to this publication, to the Film and Literature Board of Review. The remedy sought by the Society is:
An urgent independent appraisal of the OFLC decision to examine the legal concerns raised concerning the application of the FVPC Act and drawing upon a wider range of consultants with genuine expertise in the area of the welfare of victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse, rape.
A proper consideration of excisions to the film, allowed for under the Act, to avert the injury to the public good resulting from the film’s tendency to promote and support activities listed in s. 3(2)(a) and s. 3(2)(f) of the Act and extreme depiction of objectionable material listed under s 3(3) of the Act.
An urgent examination by the Board of the decision by the Chief Censor to release this film into a festival which has a long history of marketing in a sensationalised lurid manner, (eg. see the film festival brochure for 2002), exploitational films featuring sexual violence and rape (eg Baise Moi, Visitor Q), the exploitation of young persons for sexual purposes (eg Bully), gratuitous depictions of (unprotected) sex acts and sexual promiscuity (The Annabel Chong Story and Sex With Strangers), extreme graphic violence, incest, sex with corpses (necrophilia) and coprophilia (sex involving excrement) (eg. Visitor Q) etc.
Remedy sought: The Society wants this film classified Objectionable simpliciter by the proper application of s. 3 of the FVPC Act 1993.
Application for Waiver of Classification Fees for Festival Purposes, Jan 10, 2003. Signed by Anthony T. Timpson, Film Director, Becks Incredible Film Festival.
Referred to in submission by The Independent Rape Crisis Inc. p. 3.
Note: “Three people recommended “other” classifications but did not specify what these should be” OFLC decision Ref. No. 300049, p. 7, lines 4-5. However, the OFLC commissioned report apparently contradicts this finding by stating on page 6: “Two people recommended other classifications but did not specify what these should be.”
Report of the Ministerial Committee of Inquiry into Pornography chaired by Joanne Morris, submitted 31 December 1988).
See in particular the discussion at pp. 39-40 of the US Surgeon-General’s Report Pornography and Pubic Health and the references to the damaging effect of prolonged exposure to pornography and evidence that acceptance of coercive sexuality appears to be related to sexual aggression.
Roger Ebert, “Irreversible”, review for
Chicago Sun-Times, http://www.suntimes.com/cgi-bin/print.cgi,
14/3/03. Accessed by OFLC