Banning Vs Cuts

When a film is facing a ban, the makers may be given the option of cutting certain scenes from the movie so that the film can gain a release. In doing this, they have got their work to an audience but at the expense of some of their artistic vision. So, with that in mind, the point of this article is to attempt to decide which is better. Should a filmmaker sacrifice part of their work for a release or should they stay firm for their work in full? Four films will be used to investigate this, which are The Human Centipede II, A Serbian Film, Murder-Set-Pieces and Hate Crime.

One point to consider. Some of the details released in this article are quite nasty and may offend some. So please proceed with caution.

Initially released in 2011, Tom Six’s sequel to his original Human Centipede movie was the next extreme and took a post-modern, self referential route, with the first movie being a fictional film in the universe of the sequel, which inspires the character Martin to create his own 12 person human centipede.

Shot in black and white, the film is filled with genuinely vile content and seems to exist only to shock and appall. With this in mind, when originally sent to the BBFC for rating, it was rejected outright. Some of the moments the BBFC had issues with include the fact that “there is little attempt to portray any of the victims in the film as anything other than objects to be brutalised and degraded for the amusement and sexual arousal of the main character and for the pleasure of the viewer. There is a strong and sustained focus throughout the work on the link between sexual arousal and sexual violence and a clear association between non-consensual pain and sexual pleasure.” As we have mentioned before, sexual violence which is defined as potentially attempting to eroticise the situation or arouse the viewer is a big no no.


In fact, the BBFC even said that they “considered whether cutting the work might address the issues but concluded that as the unacceptable material featured throughout, cutting was not a viable option and the work was therefore refused a classification.” Well, they must have changed their mind as only four days later, a cut version was granted a release. Over two minutes of material was cut, with 32 individual cuts, to achieve release. The cut material included such things as “a man masturbating with sandpaper around his penis; graphic sight of a man’s teeth being removed with a hammer; graphic sight of lips being stapled to naked buttocks; graphic sight of forced defecation into and around other people’s mouths; a man with barbed wire wrapped around his penis raping a woman; a newborn baby being killed; graphic sight of injury as staples are torn away from individuals’ mouth and buttocks.” So, not anything particularly nice.

In regards to Human Centipede II, the cutting probably did not hurt the film too much. The initial ban was maybe even a nice shot of publicity.

Maybe one of the most notorious films of recent years, 2010 release A Serbian Film is a seriously tough watch that really pushed the boundaries of taste to the very edge of extreme. It is the story of Milos, a retired porn star, who agrees to do one more film for a huge sum of money. The issue is the film is not a standard movie and he soon descends into a world of horror and degradation.

As mentioned, A Serbian Film is a really hard watch. Some of the content in here is vicious, twisted and genuinely disturbing. Containing scenes of rape, violence, necrophilia and child abuse, this was always going to be an extremely troubling film for the BBFC. Any film which has a scene which implies the violent sexual abuse of a newborn baby is one that needs some serious thought or discussion. Well, it did cause the BBFC some issues, as the film would need to have nearly four minutes of cuts before it could be granted a release in the UK.


In fact, the decision to rate the movie was something that the BBFC took very seriously, as they said themselves that “given the film’s reputation and the need to arrive at a decision as soon as possible, the film was viewed by two examiners, plus the two Senior Examiners. Following this, the film was also seen by the BBFC’s Head of Policy, the Director, the Vice Presidents and the President. In addition, a further screening was arranged so that other examiners could have an opportunity to see the film and express their views.”

The details of what they wanted to be cut were presented online. They were “scenes of sexual and sexualised violence and scenes juxtaposing images of sex and sexual violence with images of children.” It must be said that the BBFC did say that “although the film makers had clearly taken trouble to avoid exposing any of the young actors to anything disturbing or indecent, and had offered to show the BBFC evidence of the dummy props used in the film’s most difficult scenes, the BBFC’s Guidelines nonetheless caution that ‘portrayals of children in a sexualised or abusive context’ may require compulsory cuts.”

The film ended up receiving over four minutes of cuts to achieve a release and also aid continuity. The director has always said the film is a political allegory and while this may be true, it could be said that it does get lost in amongst the splatter and horror. Again though, cutting did not seem to hurt it. Maybe the saying of controversy creates cash is true.

Now, after two films which were cut in order to achieve a release, next are two that did not cut any material and were therefore denied a release. Firstly, Nick Palumbo’s Murder-Set-Pieces.

As mentioned, the makers of Murder Set Pieces decided to not receive cuts, meaning the film is still banned in the UK. One big reason for this is whether cuts could even have achieved what the BBFC would need for it to be released. Even though they originally said that cuts would not help The Human Centipede II, it was seen that obviously it was possible to achieve a release if the makers removed some of the more tasteless moments. With Murder Set Pieces, the makers faced a different issue. As said on the BBFC website, “the Board considered whether the issue could be dealt with through cuts. However, given the unacceptable content features throughout, and that what remains is essentially preparatory and set-up material for the unacceptable scenes, cuts are not a viable option in this case and the work is therefore refused a classification.”


The fact that the contentious material appears throughout is the issue here. As the BBFC have said, no amount of cuts was going to get the film into a state where they would feel happy with releasing it. This is not a massive problem for the director of the film though. When asked what he thought about the BBFC banning his film, he tweeted: “BBFC decided to ban my film. I go straight to the peeps.”

It is clear that Nick Palumbo does not seem to have an issue with the banning of his film. He seems content with his film being seen in the way he wanted. But, what choice did he have. The idea of cuts was never presented to him so this was the only course open to him.

The final film of the four is Hate Crime, from director, James Cullen Bressack.

Much like Murder Set Pieces, the filmmakers decided not to cut the movie and therefore it is still banned in the UK. When asked about why he decided not to cut the film, James said: “The whole movie is made to look like one complete shot, so if I cut it, it would ruin the whole style of the film, so I did not.” This is definitely an example of a director staying true to his vision and not wishing to compromise the film he wanted to release.


The main issue the BBFC had with the film was that “little context is provided for the violence beyond an on-screen statement at the end of the film that the two attackers who escaped were subsequently apprehended and that the one surviving family member was released from captivity.” Add in the fact that “physical and sexual abuse and violence are accompanied by constant strong verbal racist abuse” and you have a truly contentious movie.

As said, Hate Crime did not receive cuts. This could be because “the Board considered whether its concerns could be dealt with through cuts. However, given that the fact that unacceptable content runs throughout the work, cuts are not a viable option in this case and the work is therefore refused a classification.” Or it could be because the film would no longer work, in the eyes of its director. Whether the banning hurt this film is debatable, but it is arguably admirable when a director refuses to back down.

So, there you have it. Two that were cut and two that were not. But, there is a point that applies to all of these films and maybe even renders this whole issue pointless. The internet.  These days, if someone wants to find a film in its original form, banned or not, it is not hard to do so. With this in mind, is censorship even necessary or possible now? Maybe that is the real question.


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