Reviewing a short film is a harder experience. With most movies, you usually get at least 90 minutes of material to work with and talk about. But, with a movie that is only 19 minutes long, it does not give you much to go on. That is the issue we face with 1989 movie Visions Of Ecstasy, which was the only film to ever be banned on the grounds of blasphemy.
Visions Of Ecstasy is a short, arthouse style film that focuses on 16th century nun St Teresa Of Avila and her sexual thoughts. The most controversial of these is the scenes of her becoming sexually involved with the figure of Christ while he is still on the cross. There is no plot to speak of in any way, but that is not its biggest problem. That would be how it has aged. Visions Of Ecstasy was originally made in 1989 but not granted a release until 2012. Let us say that over the years, time has not been kind to the film. It looks dated and aged.
WARNING! THE BELOW FILM CONTAINS MATERIAL THAT MAY OFFEND SOME AND IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK!
This is possibly the hardest film I have attempted to review on this site because there is so little to work with. It is a collection of scenes that could be considered shocking, but by the standards of today, seem kind of tame. It is almost a film that defies reviewing. As someone who is fascinated by banned movies, I had to watch it. But beyond anyone who falls into that niche, I am not sure who the audience for this film is now.
No. Simple as that. To be banned under the grounds of potentially offending the religious ideals of some people is farcical. At the time, the BBFC, as stated on their website, took legal advice and “judged the film to be potentially liable to prosecution under the common law offence of blasphemous libel. Because cuts would have removed about half the work (which is only 19 minutes long) the only viable option was to refuse a classification”.
There was an appeal by the director of the movie, Nigel Wingrove. “After hearing evidence from both sides, including a defence of the film by film maker Derek Jarman, the Committee upheld the BBFC’s original decision, being satisfied that a reasonable jury was likely to convict. Indeed, only 10 years previously, Gay News had been successfully prosecuted for blasphemy after publishing a poem by James Kirkup describing a Roman soldier’s sexual fantasies about Christ”.
It was not until the blasphemy law was abolished in 2008 that there was any chance of this seeing a release. “In 2012, the film was resubmitted for classification and the BBFC considered the film in terms of its current Guidelines. With the abolition of the blasphemy law, the film was no longer likely to be considered illegal under any current piece of UK legislation. Nor was the film likely to be harmful to viewers under the terms of the Video Recordings Act. Although the Board recognised that the film retained the potential to offend some viewers, there were no longer any sustainable grounds to refuse a classification and Visions of Ecstasy was therefore classified 18 without cuts. To ensure that prospective viewers are fully aware of the content of the film, the BBFC insight reads ‘Contains nudity and sex involving religious images'”.
So, no, it was and is most certainly not ban-worthy.