A Serious Question About Censorship

Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
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A Serious Question About Censorship

In the fall of 2009 I had the opportunity to meet The Human Centipede creative duo Tom and Ilona Six, the Dutch director-producer sibling duo, who were about to launch one of the biggest cult films of our time. The Human Centipede was about to become a huge underground sensation and its creators were charming, pleasant people who I liked quite a lot, Tom's fondness for Panama suits notwithstanding.

Today the duo are back in the news with word that their latest creation - The Human Centipede: Full Sequence - has been refused certification by the BBFC, a move that will make it illegal for the film to be distributed on DVD or VOD in the UK. Hit the link above for the full details as to why.

These sorts of situations always provoke strong reactions and I want to provide people the opportunity to weigh in on the issue directly here. And, to spark that, I'm going to deliberately phrase the question in as strong a way as possible, given the film in question. Here's what I want to know:

Should the ability to see a woman sexually humiliated - in this case surgically altered and anally raped by a man whose penis has been bound by barbed wire - in the name of entertainment be protected by law?
This is what the BBFC sees the core issue as and so I put it to you at face value. Though we are generally of an anti-censorship mind here at ScreenAnarchy you should be aware, though, that I don't consider "Censorship is bad" to be a valid answer any more than "We need the government watching over us". What matters, in either case, is why. Give me a reason and relate it to this specific instance. And, please, be respectful of all who care to weigh in, whether you agree with them or not.

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More about Human Centipede: Full Sequence

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John AJune 6, 2011 3:48 PM

For me it really comes down to providing information to the possible audience. Please tell me what is involved in a movie and then I will make a decision based off of my own biases and knowledge as to whether I want to see that film.

Your example is very close to what is described as happening in Seven yet that movie is okay to screen.

It really becomes a slippery slope if you say your example deserves banning then someone will say know even without the barb wire it deserves banning and then another will one step further and say that it is rape and should not be shown.

As long as no one is coerced into being part of a film nor suffers actual real violence in the making of a film and as long as they are over 18 (ie able to make their own decisions) then a movie should not be banned. As someone who shows movies to people you just need to make damn sure your audience knows what they are in for and then it is their choice.

fergus1948June 6, 2011 4:01 PM

God help me, I don't know where to start because my gut feeling is that censorship IS a bad thing and yet, just reading the short description of this movie tends to make me think 'well, some stuff SHOULD be banned.'
What IS indisputable is that it doesn't matter whether these people (Tom and Ilona Six) are nice or not; first of all you have no real way of knowing whether they really are nice, and secondly what is being considered is their OUTPUT, not their personal disposition.
I did not watch Hostel because the very idea was abhorrent to me (it may for all I know be a great movie but I used personal choice to avoid it.) Likewise Grotesque and A Serbian Film. With regard to the latter, I am distrustful of the director's claim that it was a metaphor for what happened in his country. Was that the best way to draw attention to what happened? DID it even draw attention to what happened? My guess is that it was 'enjoyed' by people who wanted to see the rape of an infant purely for shock value or in order to project their own depraved fantasies. I'm guessing that very few people who watched it now have a clearer idea of what went on during that tragic time.
In a way, what is more important than whether these films should be banned is WHY ARE THEY BEING MADE IN THE FIRST PLACE?
What does it say about the state of the world (and particularly about attitudes to women and children) that such images and narratives are deemed worthy?
Why are film makers so interested in the sadistic depiction of man's inhumanity to man (and womankind?)
It is easy to come up with a pseudo-intellectual justification of shock cinema but in the end, so much of it is simply intended to shock for shock's sake and/or in order to make money.
I can't prejudge a film I haven't seen (and in all likelihood never will see) but I am absolutely certain that the image of a woman being anally raped by a barbed-wire penis is not (and never will) add anything valuable to the human experience.
I can't really fathom what this 'nice couple' thought their film would add to the world in terms of thought, experience, value, meaning or aesthetics.
What films containing such imagery and concepts seem to express is actually a hatred of humanity. I am frequently depressed and appalled by the actions of human beings across the planet and I have seen and appreciated films which shed light on man's inhumanity to man but for me movies simply designed to revel in cruelty, sadism and misogyny are pornography of the worst sort and while I am glad I am not in the position of the censor, I hope that this 21st Century trope dies on its feet as soon a spossible.

jamesemanuelshapiroJune 6, 2011 4:04 PM

Why? Because one person or one group cannot decide what is "entertainment" any more than they can decide what is "moral". There's no set criteria in what is ok to show and what isnt because we all have different set of HIGHLY subjective standards. Its either all ok or none of it is.

btsjunkieJune 6, 2011 4:14 PM

I think people should be careful about how they relay and discuss this news about the BBFC ban. Passing along that one (admittedly) gut-wrenching description unfairly paints the film with broad strokes and the truth of the matter is only one, conservative film ratings board has seen it and distributed any information regarding only the most extreme content. This is a good discussion, but keeping it grounded by a one-liner about THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE II (as it will across many sites until someone else sees the film and provides more information) feels like domino #2.

KarlosJune 6, 2011 4:29 PM

Actually, "censorship is bad" IS a valid answer - not a vety indepth one, for sure, but a valid one nonetheless.

And banning a film is even worse.

Any kind of art - no matter if we like it or not - should NOT be cut, changed, rearranged or messed with to suit other people's desires.

No-one can or will make you see this film - or Grotesque, Hostel, A Serbian Film, or any other film for that matter - and that will never change.

Todd BrownJune 6, 2011 4:29 PM

I'm going to presume you mean 'all FICTION' in that statement, James.

Todd BrownJune 6, 2011 4:32 PM

It's a position, not an answer. If all you have is one side saying "This movie is bad" and the other side saying "Well, censorship is bad" then you have nothing. The point of the exercise is to think critically about your positions.

KarlosJune 6, 2011 4:41 PM

I'm sure there are plenty of people who will agree with the BBFC on the matter and this film in particular and it's a very tricky thing to argue at times but I do stand by my initial thoughts.

Art does not hurt and if we think it might we can leave it alone.

Perhaps the BBFC really do think they are doing something right here but I cannot agree.

All they've done is create free publicity for this film and made themselves, once again, look very bad indeed.

jamesemanuelshapiroJune 6, 2011 4:41 PM

No, I'm saying content....you cant cut out anything. All content is acceptable or no content is acceptable

arturoJune 6, 2011 4:47 PM

It's a horror movie, and horror movies are designed to take the viewers to a very dark place, to create fear and high anxiety through distubing images, for example The Exorcist which contains a little girl violenly masturbating with a crusifix and a film that was banned in the U.K for many years on video and which is now regarded as the most respected horror films of all time..Now if you were to put a description that says "a movie that involves a little girl that puts a crusifix inside her vagina untill it bleeds" would you want to see that movie??? You have to look at the movie as a whole before anyone passes any judgment on it....I understand peoples concern over such material, and if your easily offended then just stay clear of those types of movies..It all comes down to choice, and i dont like people telling me what i can and cant see when it comes to horror fiction movies..

ToryJune 6, 2011 4:47 PM

The fact of the matter is that I'm never going to watch this. It just sounds disgusting to me. Like fergus above me, I find it kind of depressing that someone out there feels the need to make a film like this. I'll never understand why anyone would want to watch it either. What would someone who would enjoy a movie like this get out of it? Now obviously, I feel negatively about the movie, but I'm against censoring it. Like John says, I think the information should be presented to the movie's potential audience and they should be the ones to decide if they want to watch it. This is some effed up stuff, but if the audience is aware of what they're getting themselves into and Tom Six hasn't hurt anyone making the movie, then these folks should be able to watch it. Ultimately, it's not up to me and it shouldn't be up to censors to pick and choose what someone can and cannot watch.

Todd BrownJune 6, 2011 4:50 PM

.... and you've just opened yourself up to the child porn argument.

JackyVaraJune 6, 2011 5:11 PM

The censorship/banning issue is really something I won't obsess about anymore. Before the Internet that was also a big issue in Germany. Availability of movies with a certain amout of violence was very limited. And it still is to some extend, like in the UK. I will be able to watch the movie some way or the other and that is good to know. What other people consider art, decency or taste is not relevant to me. A movie is a movie is a movie is a movie. Every adult person should be able to watch any fictional/artistic work and no one has the right to consider you a less decent human being for it. The discussion about the subject ends there for me. That is not to say that the issue is not worthy of discussion, just that I personally have wasted too much time discussing it.

arturoJune 6, 2011 5:17 PM

Untill the good folk here at Twitch watch and review the film with a critical eye, i will be paying more attention to how this film plays overseas and what other horror fans who know what they are talking about say about this movie??...For all i know the film could be a piece of shit or it could be better than the original? But no one here yet has seen the film?? So keep an open mind everyone including the critics here at Twitch....

Todd BrownJune 6, 2011 5:20 PM

Oh, we'll definitely watch it, and if - as was the case with A Serbian Film - we see value in it we'll defend it all day long.

JackyVaraJune 6, 2011 5:27 PM

Documentaries that depict real life should also not be censored. But when it comes to child pornography and real violence or death, context is key. That is the only area where there has to be a debate about the intention of such subject matter.

DejanJune 6, 2011 6:10 PM

Grownups should be able to decide for themselves what they want to watch, read, listen etc. As long as the material in question is not criminal (e.g. above mentioned child porn), as long as we're talking about FICTION (even if it may involve fictional depiction of subjects such as child abuse, filmed in accordance with the relevant laws & regulations about child actors etc.) - adult people whould make their choices, not governments nor their agencies.
This I see as a self-evident truth.
It is completely beside this particular point to discuss matters like "why would anyone want to watch, read, listen etc. something like that".
If we're talking about fictional film, made in accordance with relevant regulations, any adult should be able to watch it, or not watch it, as they please.

AmlethJune 6, 2011 6:15 PM

I consider myself an anti-censorship person, but in cases like this one what worries me isn't censorship, but the movie itself.

Can someone explain me what value is in showing that on screen?

Recently there is a new wave of movies that are only based on showing torture on screen. They can disguise it as they want, but the only point in those movies is the torture... Saw, A Serbian Film, Martyrs... and now this one. Take the violence out and those films are nothing. You can say they actually are trying to condemn violence in media, but how can you condemn something by doing it? Do you fight drugs selling them or declare peace invading countries? Amenabar's Tesis condemned violence in media... This movies just sell it in a most hypocritical way.

icn1983June 6, 2011 6:21 PM

I don't believe it's the role of government to set the rules of good taste. It sounds like something that would receive a hard 18-Certificate, but in the end, it's still just a gross horror film featuring simulated violence and gore. The blood's corn syrup and the barb wire is probably rubber or plastic. It's all fake. If it's not or an actor or an actress was coerced into doing something against their will or harmed, then that's a different story. The only thing this ban ensures is that more people will download it illegally.

SwarezJune 6, 2011 6:25 PM

The thing is that we are reacting to a description from somebody. Never does he say that the action of the main character are shown explicitly or simply implied. Remember that the first HC relied mainly on suggested imagery and wasn't all that graphic, the idea behind the plot was more disgusting than the film itself. Six also never focused on nudity even though the characters are almost nude all the time. So I'm hoping he will continue with that and build tension with suggestion and not necessarily full on gore, it takes a talented filmmaker to pull that off.
Also remember that the BBFC uses atmosphere and the overall feeling of a film as an excuse to censor it, it doesn't rely solely on straight imagery. So if a film has bad vibes it can get censored.
But as for the question. It all depends on context and how it's brought forth. And it's a slippery slope for sure.

John AJune 6, 2011 6:43 PM

Can someone explain me what value is in showing that on screen?

I've had people ask me that same question for movies that are teen sex comedies, action, horror, and every other style of movie.

I'm not saying these movies are for everyone but instead of people seeing a movie banned I would rather see discussion about films. The people who try to get a movie blocked or ban would be better off discussing the movies with the people who want to watch them.

GaryMLJune 6, 2011 7:06 PM

It's interesting since the first film claimed it was "medically accurate" and was about a scientist conducting an experiment (no matter how twisted). Here though it's different - it seems to be taking the "movies make you sick!" belief and runs with it (much like the "porn makes you a rapist" clique), taking a viewer of the movie and having him get off on it to the point he does his own version in real life. While the original's premise is disgusting, it at least bears a resemblance to a story. This seems more like something a fan would make to criticize the first film. I have a feeling there's a lot more to this than meets the eye.

As for the question, I might take the easy way out and say that in the case of entertainment it's not protected. Just because someone gains joy from something doesn't make it protected. Now if you had asked about art, that might be different. But this is about a business decision, making a sequel to a movie that made enough money to deserve one. So rather than try and make a good movie with an intriguing story it looks like Six went for shock and awe. Sorry, but if rape is a person's bag and they find that entertaining then that's fine, but I don't think it's something that distributors should be able to show to the public.

Although I admit that's a very weak response, since I hate censorship. I just have a tough time accepting that watching anybody get raped is entertainment unless it has an overall point in relation to the story and not just for shock value.

Todd BrownJune 6, 2011 7:30 PM

Just posted this in the thread about the film being banned as well and thought it was relevant here as well:

See, now we're getting into interesting ground.

First of all, who decided that child pornography was obscene and on what grounds? What, specifically, is it about child porn that makes it obscene? If you were to make a film catering to pedophiles using prosthetics and models made up to look younger than they actually were, would that still be obscene? Most people would say yes, despite the fact that no actual children were filmed having sex. Why is that?

VERY SERIOUS QUESTION: Why is the depiction of sex with a minor for entertainment considered obscene and the depiction of rape for the same purpose not? Does the fact that you're violating an adult somehow make it less odious? Why do we accept rape fantasy instead of treating it as an equivalent to pedophilia or a hate crime, which is what it is?

And if your whole argument is that pedophilia is already a legally defined obscenity, and therefore off limits on film, well, read the complete statement from the BBFC. That is SPECIFICALLY one of the reasons they refused to certify this. After consulting with police and legal experts they believe that this film may have crossed the line and violated UK anti-obscenity laws. It's the same scenario legally.

Ryland AldrichJune 6, 2011 7:59 PM

Great discussion. In my opinion, Dejan Ognjanovic put it the best so far a few comments above.

We have laws in our society that limit what can be shown on screen (i.e. child pornography). While subjective at the time of their creation, they are agreed upon by our appointed lawmakers and then enforced objectively.

Asking why someone would want to watch something can only be answered subjectively. Determining something has no value (or might be harmful to an adult viewer) is also a subjective decision.

No one should be able to subjectively disallow free adults from doing anything that is not objectively disallowed by law. If anyone disagrees with this assertion I would love to hear examples of why and maybe I will reconsider this position.

Our society has a long history of subjectively disallowing (censoring) material. That censorship is often retrospectively viewed as foolish and even harmful to society, regardless of if there were people who asked "why anyone would want to see such things" at the time. You can count on the fact that as time goes on, societal norms change, and our subjective opinions change as well. If they change to a certain degree, then the laws that objectively govern what cannot be legally shown can also be changed. And this is exactly why we have (or should have) anti-censorship laws in place to govern what cannot be subjectively banned.

Matthew LeeJune 6, 2011 8:06 PM

Given I've also met Tom and Ilona, chatted for some time with both of them and found them very nice, if slightly weird, I thought I'd add my two cents:

@Swarez "Six also never focused on nudity even though the characters are almost nude all the time. So I'm hoping he will continue with that and build tension with suggestion and not necessarily full on gore, it takes a talented filmmaker to pull that off."

I wouldn't get your hopes too high: I agree the first film was far, far less graphic/disgusting/obscene than most people claim, but if I'm remembering it right even back then Tom Six did say repeatedly he wanted to go full-on with the sequel - to make the original 'look like Bambi'. I was interested in the sequel because I genuinely thought it could end up as something worth watching, but I still suspected there was an equally good chance he'd lose all sense of perspective and go for wrecking every boundary he could just for the sake of it (not least given most people don't seem to hold his previous films in much regard). I'm not going to automatically claim HC2 will be rubbish before I've even seen it, but this does make me much less interested in seeing it.

On the other hand:

@fergus1948 "I can't prejudge a film I haven't seen (and in all likelihood never will see) but I am absolutely certain that the image of a woman being anally raped by a barbed-wire penis is not (and never will) add anything valuable to the human experience."

I'll take the risk of pointing out the novel Kushiel's Avatar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kushiel%27s_Avatar) contains a scene which is essentially very, very close to this: stripped of context it's a woman raped in a degrading, humiliating manner which causes her great pain and considerable physical injury, yet because of her unique physical and mental attributes she can survive and even take some pleasure in it. It's absolutely horrifying, and one of the few scenes in a novel - i.e. words on a page - that have ever made me feel physically sick. Admittedly there are arguably a lot of problematic aspects to the way the (female) author deals with sex and sexuality, but it's still a pivotal scene: you could not film the book and cut that out without taking a lot of the dramatic impact away. Does it add to the human experience? Christ knows. I have re-read her books quite a few times, though. (I do tend to skip past that bit, however, same as with the rape in the original graphic novel for The Crow; I adore that book, but I find that scene so harrowing as to be pretty much unreadable.)

Anyhow. Not really a topic I want to stay on any longer than I have to, on the internet or in polite company. Still, I'm not entirely happy with the BBFC's decision, and I think there's scope to push what you can include in any narrative a lot more than many people would have you believe. At the same time I look at this announcement and just feel... a bit sad, really. I'm not seeing anything in HC2's plotline to justify including this stuff, and I can readily believe Tom Six has just gone off the deep end for no good reason. But then I read the synopsis for A Serbian Film and decided that sounded like utter rubbish, too, so I doubt I'm going to impress many people with this little speech.

Either way, there's my contribution: have at it, or carry on.

PeachHipGirlJune 6, 2011 8:52 PM

Wait - to clarify - this barbed wire scene is in The Human Centipede sequel?

I enjoyed the first film - quite a bit more than I thought I would. It was silly in its extremity. The scene described is not silly. It is loathsome. I do not want to see something that abhorrent in a film that does not treat its violence with gravity.

The rape scene in Lucky McKee's The Woman, for instance, was abhorrent and difficult to watch, but the film did not take it lightly. I cannot imagine The Human Centipede treating rape with the same seriousness.

Should it be illegal? It's all about the context, I suppose.

John AJune 6, 2011 8:56 PM

I'll stand by my comment that as long as no one is forced through violence, coercion or anything other illegal things to make the film then the film should not be banned. Everyone involved also needs to be able to make the decision to be in the film. (Children are not able to make this decision at any time).

A film such as A Serbian Film does not contain any actual child pornography it is simulated. If a movie such as The Accused can show a simulated rape scene and if a movie such as Seven can show someone being raped with a blade then we must also allow a movie with simulated child pornography.

The perspective audience should know going into the film that the content is there and if they do not want to watch it then they should not. I am a big believer in audience responsibility in deciding for themselves but to coincide with that the film makers, theatres and anyone else who present films must also make sure the audience knows what the content of the film is. They don't have to give away plot but they do need to let the viewers be able to make the decision.

I also feel that just like everything else people are not willing to take this responsibility on for themselves and that is why we have film classification boards.

If you want to make the discussion even more interesting how do you deal with movies that could contain Hate Speech because one of the characters is a bigot.

Kwenton BelletteJune 6, 2011 11:51 PM

Dejan Ognjanovic's comment is right on the money. To add to what he has said, I can only add, Tom Six and promotions have been marketing THC as nothing but extremely depraved, wrong and disturbing. If you do not heed these warnings, that's your problem, but also your decision, and not some governing body.

Niels MatthijsJune 7, 2011 2:09 AM

Dejan Ognjanovic pretty much said what I was going to say on the subject

But as for _why_ anyone would want to see this ... film is probably the only time a human being will be able to see the scene described above. Knowing that he'll be watching that in a safe environment and knowing that nobody was actually hurt (bad) while filming it. It's pretty much just another freak show and that's just something people find amusing.

Furthermore, I've never watched something in a film that had a lasting (negative) effect on my being, so I would be surprised if this film would turn into a life-changer for me. Seeing the description of the scene in question, it looks pretty horrendous, but so did A Serbian Film and that just didn't do much for me. In the end it's all about presentation, which makes me wonder how the BBFC handled Martyrs.

And one final thought: people will probably be more shocked seeing a penis on screen than they'll be shocked watching the rape scene.

JackyVaraJune 7, 2011 3:57 AM

I guess a depiction of "child porn" is outlawed more throughout the world than the depiction of violence and sex between adults. For the same reasons the media always emphasises the fact that children are among the victims of crimes or disasters. Children are not fully developed human beings, considering life experience, intellect and the understanding of the world. Their abuse or death is considered more tragic by most people than the violation of adults. I think that fact is only validated more when you have children yourself! The scenes in a movie like Serbian Film are embedded in a story and you have to be one sick motherfucker to be aroused by them! The real problem are movies with the possible intent of arousal. Maladolescenza (Puppy Love) is such a case where you can make a good argument against its depiction of underage love. But it is very interesting how there are moral shifts in society and the movie I just mentioned was not considered child pornography at all in the 70s.

Ard VijnJune 7, 2011 4:31 AM

A year ago I wrote this article, asking the same question about the lolicon phenomenon in Japanese animation:

What is acceptable in this context? And if we're talking about animated or simulated child pornography, should that be forbidden by law as well?
It's interesting to know that child-pornography laws were created to protect children from being used in the porn industry. So when no actual children are even present during production, should this stuff still be illegal? I think not. What you are discussing here is a matter of taste, not a question of children being endangered.

Getting back to this specific instance of barbed wire rape, the same applies. The BBFC explicitly states they are censoring the film for being obscene in its entirety, not because there is any inherent danger to anyone (except maybe a vague concept as "society in general"). This is the worst kind of censorship because it cannot be fought on a scene-by-scene basis, and there is no workable definition for what's obscene in any artform.

We've all been near-terminally bored by some films, dreary household dramas, badly written and badly acted, and wished someone would make a law against those. But to have a law around that forbids something purely on the grounds of it being in bad taste is, in my opinion, wrong. Laws are made for the protection of people, and I don't see the protection in this.

When I read the BBFC's announcement concerning this title I was shocked by the content as well. But mostly because it squandered whatever was original about the whole human centipede idea. I mean, barbed wire rape as described here is horrific in itself, you don't need a human centipede for that. But in itself such a brutal horrific act does not warrant censorship, just an 18+ rating Same as Kim Ki-Duk's "The Island", in which a somewhat similar thing occurs. Brrrrr.....

stevensheilJune 7, 2011 6:32 AM

For me, the most interesting aspect of this is the idea that the film “poses a real, as opposed to a fanciful, risk that harm is likely to be caused to potential viewers” coupled with the concerns that the film may be in breach of the Obscene Publications Act, which “prohibits the publication of works that have a tendency to deprave or corrupt a significant proportion of those likely to see them”.

This idea of ‘harm’, the idea of a film that ‘depraves and corrupts’ – the concern here is that the audience need protecting. But which audience are we talking about and what are they/we being protected from?

There’s no evidence that the viewing of Human Centipede 2 harms, depraves or corrupts. The film has already been viewed numerous times by the people who made it – writer, director, producer, cast, crew, sales agents, distributors – and by the BBFC themselves. Have they been harmed, depraved or corrupted? If not, then why should we think that there is the potential for others to be so harmed and corrupted? What sets them apart and why wouldn’t it set us apart too?

It seems to me that the description of the film suggests that it is at the very least a comment on the idea of film corrupting the viewer. We’re told that the lead character masturbates to a viewing of Human Centipede:First Sequence and that he creates his own, more ambitious, human centipede. Surely this is a satire on the whole idea of the imitability of horror films. As far as I know, nobody in real life has attempted to create a Human Centipede, nor is there evidence that the first film harmed, depraved or corrupted anyone. So the only place to see this harm taking place is within Human Centipede 2.
For all those asking ‘Why make something like this’, surely this is the answer, at least in part – the film appears to be about the idea of a ‘corrupting film’, it’s engaging in this debate. (It also seems to tie in with the central idea of the first film – something is passed through one body then excreted into a second and then onto a third. Maybe the mooted third HC film will feature someone ‘inspired’ by HC2…)
So if the film has a central idea about the idea of corruption, does that make it corrupting? Because the central character is depraved, are we in danger of becoming depraved too? What harm will be done to us if we view the film?

No-one is accidentally going to watch HC2 if all the existing laws and classification structures are abided by. If the film were classified 18 it would not be legally viewable by children. It is unlikely that the film – which would also carry a description of its content alongside its classification (eg ‘Contains very strong sexual violence, sex and violence’), which would alert the viewer to any content which might upset them – would be unwittingly viewed by someone who didn’t want to see it.

But there is also a concern that ‘vulnerable people’ might be exposed to the film, with the implied idea that it might do psychological damage (corrupt and deprave). Again, where’s the evidence that Human Centipede or any other horror film does this? Also, are these ‘vulnerable people’, as the OPA states, ‘a significant proportion’ of those likely to see the film? Where’s the evidence for this?

All films seek to affect us – they want to get inside our heads or our guts – they want us to think or feel. Some filmmakers want us to think about unpleasant things, things that trouble us, things that upset us, things that disgust us – and they do this because they know that there is an audience out there that wants to think about these things. They want to see stories about death, murder, mutilation, violence and depravity because they are trying to process the reasons for these things existing in the real world. In real life, torture, murder and sexual abuse are abhorrent, but they happen every day and they affect us and often the reasons for them happening are hard to understand. What’s wrong with producing a piece of work, a fiction, a story that attempts to examine a worldview that is alien to us, a worldview that embraces the abhorrent? Are we really so psychologically vulnerable that we need to be protected from ideas that are troubling?

I haven’t seen Human Centipede 2, so I don’t know whether it has a coherent argument about the potential of film to corrupt or whether it’s just a barrage of extreme sexual violence. The point is that it’s a fiction and its designed to affect the viewer -as all films are – and I can make up my own mind as to whether I want to see it and whether I want its worldview in my head. If I were to watch it in a cinema or at home I could at any point get up and leave or turn it off. I don’t need someone to protect me from it.

To reverse the original question – should the ability to see a woman sexually humiliated - in this case surgically altered and anally raped by a man whose penis has been bound by barbed wire - in the name of entertainment be prevented by law? If no harm were done in the creation of this image, if all parties involved were consensual and fully aware of the context of the image’s creation, then why should we be prevented from seeing it? As yet, we don’t know the context of this image, beyond what the BBFC have told us, but I think we could as individuals decide whether it was something that had creative or entertainment or intellectual value or not, and if not, then we could discuss why not. The film, if released, would find an audience willing to engage with its worldview or it wouldn’t – the same as any other film. I think that denying the film a release under the pretence of protecting the audience from harm grossly underestimates the ability that the vast majority of us have to process fictional images and ideas.

Ard VijnJune 7, 2011 7:27 AM

I don't think I will ever be able to word or otherwise defend my opinion better than stevensheil just did.

Todd BrownJune 7, 2011 10:03 AM

Ladies and gentlemen, the writer-director of Mum & Dad ...

im.maokunJune 7, 2011 11:21 AM

I believe the main problem of the absolute, no-excuses anti-censorship proponents is that they believe everyone else to be like them: well-educated, sensible, politically informed (and opinionated,) with liberal leanings, etc., so they can easily dismiss the need for censorship as "it's everyone's responsible, adult choice to do, not the government to nanny-choose for them."

But what about people with less sophisticated brains? People just wanting to have some fun watching an horror movie they heard was gross or something? Or the ones that are just bored and go to cinema/movie rental place and pick the movie randomly without knowing even what it is about? How do you know watching (needlessly, should I add? why there's a need of something like this to even exist?) this won't awake in a random viewer some dark desires that eventually drive them to behaviour that simulates what they saw? Or that they would be emotionally scarred? (I know you guys are tuff and can't understand that people can actually be emotionally weak.)

As I said in the other thread, it's not like you will be actually stopped from watching the movie, you'll just have to jump one hoop more and you'll get it. I believe that slightly inconveniencing a small group of, intelligent, capable and mature potential viewers is worth sparing even one single person from potentially being negatively affected by the movie.

NicholasJune 7, 2011 11:29 AM

To me, the Mike Leigh film Naked contained scenes more disturbing than what I hear is depicted in HC2 since he placed the film in an environment that is entirely familiar. HC2 is doubly abstracted from reality, at least I assume this to be the case for the vast majority of people.

I doubt I will ever see a human centipede in real life, and I find the concept of violating another human so abhorrent as to effectively be fantastical, or in other words, completely unreal. This is why HC2 fascinates me, because it portrays an impossible situation, and yet it has been banned. Banning thought is such a damn weird concept!

Yet in the real world we have the very real fact of financial greed causing war and suffering on a scale that is literally impossible to conceive, and depicting this in mass media is fully permitted.

Also, there was a comment on the Guardian website regarding the banning of this film that I thought was brilliantly written:

(quoting the article)The BBFC's decision to ban Tom Six's shock-horror film lays bare a phobia about violence, but only when it's sexual

Reading the interview with Six for the original film, I think this was exactly the phobia he was aiming at. That for most people, true horror lay in the threat of "being interfered with". In some ways, the catharsis in most horror films is when the victim dies - it would be more horrible, and horrific, to continue living after mutilation than to die, and in context, death becomes the happy ending. That ending doesn't really happen here, and is amplified by the mundane fashion in which the victims become victims.

And if the film was truly meant as a piece of art, it's banning by the BBFC on these grounds, without viewing, and from all possible forms of distribution, is the finishing touch. The two films offer an analysis of what true horror is: the fantasy of something ghastly happening to you in the first, and the post-modernist nightmare of what the consequence of watching such a film could be. Then, like the final part of the triptych, is the banning of this second film by the BBFC.

It achieves brilliance as art by being banned. The happy ending is the confirmation that it's not real because the horror can be stopped, not by a hero with a gun in side the film, but by a judicial board outside of it. If the horror rests on the concept of ultimate victim-hood, the final message and ultimate rescue is that the horror can be destroyed by an act of personal control and will (the deducted judgement of a voting panel set up within a democratic society).

SwarezJune 7, 2011 11:33 AM

Well said sir.

amanda.underwood3June 7, 2011 12:45 PM

I'm against censorship but...

You could consider censorship a way of limiting the availability of an item. Those determined to have access will find a way, but all of the kids sitting in the room when their older brother streams THC will be protected.

I do think the torture porn movement is disturbing and even more disturbing is how many young kids get exposed to it. Wherever you fall on the nature/nurture argument its hard to justify showing those kinds of images to children.

I think people will always make these kinds of film and I wouldn't stop them but I'd make it damn hard for it to be openly available.

John AJune 7, 2011 12:52 PM

Ignorance should be no excuse for poor viewing decisions in my mind. Have the poster out front and have it say what is in the movie. Make it obvious what you are in for. If people are ignorant because of being lazy then I have no problem with them being subjected to films they won't like.

As someone who screens films I do my best to make sure the audience knows what they are in for with each film. If their is nudity I let them know, if their is violence I let them know and if there is simulated child rape I would let them know. I have no problem with people walking out or not attending at all. I do encourage people push boundaries with their film viewing but no to the point where they will mentally, physically, socially or any other way harm themselves.

jasongJune 7, 2011 1:11 PM

@Ard Vijn
"What is acceptable in this context? And if we're talking about animated or simulated child pornography, should that be forbidden by law as well? It's interesting to know that child-pornography laws were created to protect children from being used in the porn industry. So when no actual children are even present during production, should this stuff still be illegal? I think not. What you are discussing here is a matter of taste, not a question of children being endangered."

It's definitely a valid argument -- almost incontestable. But while people rightly focus on the angle of "no real victims" and the never-ending debate over whether or not it prevents or spurs real acts there's a secondary point that very few people mention, and one I had admittedly not thought of until veteran crime reporter Jake Adelstein brought it up: people targeting real children use manga and anime -- formats kids are obviously familiar with -- as tools to groom them. It doesn't defeat the argument, but it's something to consider.

John AJune 7, 2011 1:31 PM

As a parent myself I work damn hard to make sure what my kid watches is appropriate. What is appropriate is based off of my beliefs and what I read about a movie. I do not base their viewing of of an artificial G, PG, PG-13, 18A, or R rating. I look to see what the content is and make the decision myself.

Banning this movie neither makes me want to make it available for my kid nor does it make me want to not let him see it. I as a responsible adult will look at the content and decide.

Given that, there is no way in hell I'd let him watch it for another 10 or so years. :)

I took him to Open Season a few years back because the rating was G. It was one of the few times where I didn't look. In that movie there is a hunter that runs around with a huge buck knife trying to kill the animals. It is played quite nasty and was above what I was comfortable with him seeing. It is my own fault for not doing the research that I should have done and simply relying on someone else to make the judgement for me.

Sean "The Butcher" SmithsonJune 7, 2011 2:53 PM

It's all about the POV of the film. Even with something like A SERBIAN FILM, the acts in it are portrayed as "horrifying" and "wrong".

the plot description for HUMAN CENTIPEDE 2 seems to put the viewer in the POV of the "bad guy" in a voyeuristic fashion.

Should it be banned? I have no quams with the UK banning it. it's not going to stop the film from circulating for one thing. For two, just because you can doesn't mean you should. I'd rather see horror fans show some taste and boycott something that is mean spirited and mentally unhealthy. There is no reason to relish in a rape scene featuring a victims anus and a cock wrapped in barbed wire. Context is everything in these situations, and it SEEMS the context of this film is just kind of vile.

John AJune 7, 2011 3:06 PM

For everyone who says that it is not going to hurt the film, I disagree somewhat. If every country ended up banning the film then there would be no actual DVD or VOD or Theatrical Release other than Six selling it through his own personal website. Sure, a lot of people will end up seeing it through piracy and illegal means but that doesn't put money in the film maker's pocket. If you were a distributor, would you be willing to put out a lot of money for a film which you were not allowed to distribute.

Sean "The Butcher" SmithsonJune 7, 2011 3:55 PM

To be clear, I was also a pro musician and played caustic music when the PMRC thing was rearing it's head. I had no qualms about rating albums, a very unpopular stance among my peers.
I also say to this day that all that gangster rap bullshit indeed caused an upswing in kids trying to imitate what they heard on those albums, which glorified violent crime. I saw it happen with my own eye, as well as lived in predominantly poor and black areas before that music came along, and watched the attitude change at a sea level when it gained mass popularity.
Say what you want, argue what you want, what people put in their heads changes them. sadly, most people are too stupid to intellectualize what they see and merely "react".

Desensitization is as bad as censorship. We won't see that affect here likely, because we all engage with the art we choose to view. sadly, the average viewer does not.

Todd BrownJune 7, 2011 4:13 PM

I've been in screenings of The Hills Have Eyes and I Spit On Your Grave and listened to people leaving complaining that they weren't rapey enough. There's a large segment of the audience that wants these films explicitly for the titillation, I agree with you 100% there. And that's specifically why I question if it's wise to keep making films that fetishize rape. Regardless of whether they should be censored or not I find the public attitude towards sexual violence in film radically different than it is towards other serious issues in ways that are VERY, VERY troubling.

Make a film that plays a Klansman boot stomping a black guy to death for violence, trying to get an audience to cheer along for it, or a film that has a film that features someone fucking a child until they like it and see what sort of outcry there is. I've lost count of how many films I've seen that feature a woman being raped until she likes it and nobody even blinks. There is something radically wrong with the way our culture just accepts this stuff and - more than accepting it - embraces a segment of population that views it purely as entertainment to cheer along to.

Todd BrownJune 7, 2011 4:15 PM

Absolutely. This move probably cost the producers and investors in the film somewhere in the neighborhood of two or three hundred grand, directly out of their pockets. The UK is the number two market internationally for this sort of film and they've just lost all of that revenue. It's a huge hit.

Sean "The Butcher" SmithsonJune 7, 2011 4:43 PM

I LIVE to meet those types who say "It wasn't rapey enough."

Dismantling them is a sport to me. I send them running home to Mom holding their ass cheeks tight.

Also, as a lifelong horror fan, I am sick of films like this being labeled "horror'. It's a misrepresentation, and thwarts younger converts ability to develop a true taste for higher minded genre offerings.

I'm actually working on a column about "extreme" vs. "intense" right now. this is going to make good stuff for inclusion.

Viewers need to allow themselves to emotionally engage with a film. there's a "shock me, prove it" attitude now that is ruining the horror genre. It pisses me off.

John AJune 7, 2011 6:11 PM

How people say horror movies should be made to put you in a situation or place that you would not be safe in while still being actually safe. They should illicit emotions and feelings that you might not want to experience in day to day life. I want to be scared by my horror films. For me my preference is to be creeped out. Make me fear what is happening or could possibly happen with shadows and anticipation and a horror movie is a success to me. Just seeing brutalization is not something that scares me in movies as I know it is fake (and I'm really glad that it is fake). This pretty much covers every physical act that I can imagine. I want to be on the edge of my seat for the next creepy or disturbing element to make me jump.

Each and every audience member is different though. The above is what does and doesn't scare me. For some the brutalization aspect might be much more scary and I will not judge them for being put in that scary place in a different way just because they are different than me.

If my type of being scared is fine then I should accept that their way is also fine.

James DennisJune 8, 2011 4:26 AM

Not to mention scuppering Six's chances for non-self-funded projects in the future...

James DennisJune 8, 2011 4:39 AM

I'm with 100% on the misrepresentation of horror as a genre. The disproportionate airtime/press time given to often poor but censor-baiting films does a disservice to the better work out there. People frequently dismiss genre offerings with an "Oh, it's just another one of those Saw torture-porn-gore-fests isn't it". I'm not talking about horror fans of course or even film fans, but bright people who enjoy a good movie from any genre, but are swayed from 'horror' by negative PR. Yes, these guys should dig a little deeper, but they're exactly the sort of people that the better flicks really need to boost their distribution and box office. Age old moan I guess!

GaryMLJune 8, 2011 11:36 AM

Ultimately though isn't this about business? The UK is denying him a market for his goods, which is their right. If he can't make a film that's marketable, then isn't that on him? Sure he's generating controversy, but it's not the UK's job to make sure he makes money off of it. That's why I mentioned before that this isn't a question of art but entertainment, which makes it tougher to answer. If Six was making art then it would be different, but this is commerce - and he's not guaranteed a market. There are plenty of countries that ban movies for other reasons (they don't like how religion is portrayed - heck, China doesn't want time travel movies). It's fine if Six wants to make movies for his buddies to enjoy, but nobody said he's guaranteed an audience - and the UK is exercising their right to say it won't be in their countries.

mancalledvJune 8, 2011 2:13 PM

but it's not "the UK...exercising their right to say it won't be in their countries" - it's the BBFC exercising the right to say it won't be in the British Public's country.
Granted, to play Devil's Advocate for a second, the BBFC is in a tough spot as their mandate is to follow the laws of the land (as they interpret them).

Ard VijnJune 9, 2011 5:27 AM

The fact that pedophiles use manga and anime as tools to "groom" children is terrible of course. But it is no reason to ban manga and anime. Children were abused before manga and anime became popular (or even known) in the West, and if these weren't available these people would just use regular pornography or US comics from the sixties and seventies.

I can choke someone with my shoelaces, run someone over with my car or set someone alight with matches. There are sick people around the world doing these things this very minute. That does not mean we should forbid shoelaces, cars or matches (although interestingly, the use of one of these is rated 18+...).

James DennisJune 9, 2011 8:12 AM

But again it comes down making judgements about it being art vs entertainment based on a text description from the BBFC. They've banned it, based not on individual scenes but on finding the ideology they perceive it to have potentially harmful to viewers. I watch various movies for various reasons and it's not always for entertainment purposes. Couldn't Six's movie be really bad art? I have no idea as I haven't seen it, but the whole art/entertainment delineation sits uncomfortably with me.

jasongJune 9, 2011 1:03 PM

It's funny - I was going to include a final paragraph that said "And no, it's not the same as knives being used for murder or cars being used in the commission of crimes" but then thought "Nah, nobody would actually make that analogy."

Creating or even possessing the kind of virtual depictions professionally produced/published and disseminated here in Japan would get you thrown in prison in quite a few countries in Europe and elsewhere in the world. More than the issue of the depictions themselves, it's the fact that these materials are clearly sold as child p. products (albeit virtual) that fuels the debate here.

Unlike censorship or the banning of feature films and books, I think a lot less people feel motivated to make slippery slope arguments about this kind of material which is why laws will only become stricter, not laxer.

Todd BrownJune 9, 2011 2:27 PM

You know, I just want to say that this thread makes me incredibly proud of what we've built at Twitch. We just had a lengthy and pretty in depth conversation about one of the all time great hot button topics with people expressing opposing viewpoints and nothing but respect all around. I honestly can't think of any other place that would have happened and it's a big part of why I love the community we've got here.

sitenoiseJune 10, 2011 10:56 PM

Yeah, good on ya Todd. I think part of it might be that your avatar is intimidating. Keeps people in line. I wish a lot more posts here generated comment threads like this. Twitch is one of a very few places that can go deep without incivility creep.

Ard VijnJune 17, 2011 9:16 AM

True: there is no level I will not stoop to if it helps showing my point. And I had not even considered knives yet, silly me. I still say bad usage should never be cause for banning something, although I have no trouble with putting a high rating on it.