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Thursday, 6 October 2011

What have the BBFC got against Human Centipede 2?

- I was supposed to be  blogging about The League of Gentlemen and Amicus films today, but there's something nasty going on in Soho square that's got my goat... -

The Human Centipede 2 - Full Sequence
 has now been passed by the BBFC with an 18 certificate with 32 separate cuts totalling 2 minutes and 37 seconds. It's not surprising that the film required such heavy cutting considering the grounds on which it was initially rejected for classification (a rare move in these days of a kinder, gentler BBFC), what has been surprising is the sheer venom and disregard for the film's integrity which they have displayed in their press releases. They don't just want this film kept out of the cinemas, they want to systematically destroy any chance Tom Six's new movie has of finding an audience, in any form, and certainly of it generating any press-courting notoriety.

Their initial pronouncement regarding the ban contained a 250 word synopsis of the movie which went way, way beyond the call of duty. It included an outline of the plot, which is fair enough given their new-found policy of providing detailed explanations of decisions, but it also described the film's climax in considerable detail. I won't risk increasing the damage done by repeating the details here, but in two short sentences the film's most shocking moments are quickly and concisely summarised with nothing left to the imagination. Compare the spoilerific detail with which Centipede 2 is described with the concise way cuts to the similarly violent Ichi - The Killer were justified back in 2002. Ichi was cut far more than Centipede 2, losing over 3 minutes in cuts to its most explicit scenes of violence against women and sexualised masochism.

Six reacted with predictable anger to the BBFC's decision to both spoil and ban his film, telling Empire-

'Thank you BBFC for putting spoilers of my movie on your website and thank you for banning my film in this exceptional way.'

Six is right, it is exceptional, and it seems clear that the BBFC wished to make something on an example of his film. They must be fully aware of the publicity potential for any film which is banned outright by perhaps the world's most notorious classification board, whose blanket ban on so called 'video nasties' was one of the major cause célèbres of the 1980's. The words 'Banned by the BBFC' are a sure-fire attention-grabber, and even movies which have long since been passed by the modern board frequently vaunt their previous outlaw status.

Previously Banned!
Had the BBFC simply slapped Six's film with an R rating and said no more, the internet would be ablaze with speculation regarding the contents of a film which had so appalled a body which has recently passed even Cannibal Holocaust essentially uncut. By giving away the ending, however, they've denied Six this possibility. Not only were global audiences made aware of the film's most extreme moments before the premiere, but the phrasing of the BBFC's statement reduced them to a sort of cheap and sordid exercise in provocation which many will doubtlessly see them as. For my own part, once I'd read the BBFC account my interest in the film dried up considerably. Christ, it sounds horrible, but now that I know what flavour of horrible it is, i'm more inclined to give it a miss. I suspect a lot of other viewers will do the same.

Now that the appeal against the decision has been dropped and a heavily censored version produced, you'd think the BBFC would finally cut Six some slack, but you'd be wrong. Today's statement makes it pretty clear that now that they've had their way and sliced the grisly heart out of the film, there's really not much left to render it notable, let alone recommend it. They note that:

'When we first examined this work earlier this year we judged that, as submitted, it was unsuitable for classification; and, as we explained to the company, we could not ourselves see how cuts could produce a viable and classifiable work. That remains the view of one of our Vice Presidents, Gerard Lemos, who is therefore abstaining from the Board's collective decision.'

So Lemos was either unconvinced that the film was now suitable for classification, or that it was still a viable work at all. The tone of their pronouncement leaves this, I think, deliberately ambiguous. The film may now still be too nasty, or it may have been rendered an incomprehensible mess. Putting two and two together from the boards pronouncements, the latter sounds like a distinct possibility.

Tom Six set out to create a film so extreme that it would make the first movie 'look like My Little Pony in comparison', something so extreme that it would shatter the boundaries of good taste, and the BBFC have called his bluff. What's so disturbing about it, and why the whole thing smacks of foul play, is their decision to arbitrarily disregard the film's claim to artistic integrity by revealing its plot twists, and casting vague dispersions on the viability of the shredded carcass their scissors have left behind. It's a ruling which strikes right to the heart of the strange question of good taste and who arbitrates it which remains endemic to the nature of obscenity, and one which Six has every right to kick against.

- Stewart Pringle

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