• Bible Films Blog

    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


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    Wednesday, April 09, 2008

    Rethink on Visions of Ecstasy Ban

    The British Board of Film Classification may reconsider their decision to ban a controversial Jesus film. Visions of Ecstasy was rejected in 1989 on grounds of blasphemy, and, accoding to one of the BBFC's websites it remains the only film to have been banned in the UK on grounds of blasphemy.

    Released in 1989 the controversy came hot on the heels of debates about Last Temptation of Christ and the Salman Rushdie novel 'The Satanic Verses'. The 19 minute film depicts a scene in which a "sexualised figure of St Teresa of Avila caresses the body of Christ on the cross".1 The ruling eventually ended up in the European Court of Human Rights in 1996, where the BBFC's decision was upheld.

    This June, however, sees the repeal of the blasphemy law, which might pave the way for the ban to be lifted. And, according to The Observer, board member Craig Lapper has invited director Nigel Wingrove to resubmit the film for classification.

    Searching the web for a bit more information on this film I also came across a 2006 Mark Kermode article from The Observer which discusses the film ahead of the (then) proposed 'Racial and Religious Hatred Act'. He describes the film as
    an innocuous (if rather silly) short film depicting 'the ecstatic and erotic visions of St Teresa of Avila'...St Teresa is first seduced by her own sexual psyche (played, conveniently, by a photegenic 'babe'), and then mounts and caresses the crucified body of Christ. Technical shortcomings notwithstanding (hands which seem to move freely despite apparently being nailed down) the film raised a problem for the BBFC, which is forbidden from classifying material which may infringe the laws of the land.
    His overall point is, I think, that whilst he thinks such material is distasteful, we shouldn't maintain a law which "privileges the sensitivities of Christians over those of others". Wingrove himself apparently has some reservations about resubmitting the film after all this time. "If I did release it, I would need to put it into context"2.

    1 - "Visions of Ecstasy", Students' British Board of Film Classification - http://www.sbbfc.co.uk/case_study_visionsofe.asp
    2 - "Rethink over Christ 'porn' film ban", The Observer, 6th April 2008 - http://film.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,,2271373,00.html


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