Via Mad Musings Of Me, here’s an interesting article from The Times (subscription may be required for some) discussing on the differing ratings films get across Europe and how what can be seen as controversial in one country can be completely ignored just over the border.
The report stems from Robin Duval, the outgoing director of the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), dismissing proposals for European-wide film classification. The article points out several examples of where standards differ:
Britons take a stronger stance than most countries against sex, violence, swearing and drug use. Use of Anglo-Saxon oaths is especially frowned on in Englishspeaking countries, causing anomalies with films such as Billy Elliot, which contained no sex, drugs or violence but an estimated 50 swearwords.
In Britain it was rated 15, but in France and Spain it received the equivalent of a universal certificate. America demanded cuts to allow it to be rated PG-13, in which parents are cautioned not to let younger children watch. Germany and Sweden allowed children of seven into screenings.
France has the most relaxed attitude to film censorship, especially over sex. The most extreme example is American Beauty, rated 18 in Britain but given a universal certificate in France. The Exorcist, Gangs of New York, Hannibal, Pulp Fiction and Secretary were all given an 18 certificate in Britain but a 12 in France.
Of course, there are some stereotypes that no journalist can resist:
Scandinavian countries are very liberal on sex and drug use, but take a hard line on violence. The first The Lord of the Rings film, which was passed at PG in Britain because violence was inflicted on fantasy beasts rather than human beings, was restricted to 11 and over in Sweden and Norway. Despite Britain?s relatively high tolerance for violence, it can occasionally be outstripped by Italy. The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson?s film in which James Caviezel is whipped for 25 minutes, was rated 18 in Britain but awarded a universal certificate in Italy.
I’d have to agree with Duval that European-wide classification isn’t going to possible in most cases, but it’s interesting to note that in Britain, while the BBFC has the general power to classify films, local authorities also have powers in this area. Michael Brooke has discussed this issue in the past.
As a final point, I’ve noticed that DVDs released onto the British market are often now (presumably to save costs) labelled with the Irish certification as well as the British (interestingly, Ireland still has a Film Censor’s office, whereas Britain’s, of course, is just a classifier – no censorship here folks, oh no) – in most cases they’re the same rating, though I have noticed a couple of DVDs (the names escape me now) where they have a lower certificate in Ireland than in Britain.