Censorship of Romance (1999)

After initially being banned, ROMANCE was awarded an R-rating by the Classification Review Board. This decision set a precedent, allowing ‘actual sex’ outside the X-rating.

Catherine Breillat’s ANATOMY OF HELL (2004) also had censorship issues in Australia.


Romance

Directed by Catherine Breillat / 1999 / France / IMDb

In July 1999, ROMANCE had its Australian premiere at the 48th Melbourne International Film Festival.

It was subsequently picked up for distribution by Potential Films. However, in January 2000, their submission of a 99-minute print was banned by the OFLC.

January 14, 2000
The Classification Board, in a majority decision, has given the film ROMANCE an ‘RC’ classification (Refused Classification). The film contains explicit depictions of actual sexual activity, an implied depiction of sexual violence and adult themes of very high intensity.

In arriving at this decision the Classification Board assessed the film in accordance with the statutory requirements set out in the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Classification Guidelines for Films and Videotapes. The Board also took into account community concerns about sexual violence and explicit depictions of sexual activity.

ROMANCE is a film by the French director Catherine Breillat. The film, which is a psycho-sexual drama in French language with English subtitles, depicts a woman’s odyssey of sexual exploration. The film contains explicit depictions of actual sex taking place, as well as depictions of fetish activity and an implied depiction of sexual violence.

A minority of the Classification Board argued that the artistic merit and character of the film supported its release for adult viewing. However, the majority of the Board considered that sexually explicit depictions cannot generally be accommodated within the ‘R’ (Restricted 18+) classification, as such depictions exceed generally accepted community expectations and standards applying to films in cinemas and video stores as expressed in the classification guidelines, which state:

‘Sexual activity may be realistically simulated; the general rule is “simulation, yes – the real thing, no.”

The Board noted that the ‘X'(Restricted 18+) classification is a special and legally restricted category for sexually explicit material between consenting adults which does not permit depictions of sexual violence, sexualised violence or coercion of any kind.

Therefore, the Board in majority determined that the film warranted an ‘RC’ classification.

When making classification decisions, the Classification Board is required to take into account the standards generally accepted by reasonable adults, as well as the general character of the film, the likely audience for the film and the literary, artistic and educational merit (if any) of the film.

The Classification Board considered Ms Breillat’s credentials and reputation as a film-maker and noted that the film appears to be a serious artistic work. The Board also noted that the film is available for viewing by adult audiences in some comparable countries overseas. The film has been publicly released uncut in Britain under classification guidelines which permit certain sexually explicit material within the 18+ category.

However, the majority of the Board noted that generally explicit depictions of sexual activity have not previously been permitted in the ‘R’ classification in Australia. The Board’s role is to reflect and not to lead community standards in the application of statutory criteria.

– Simon Webb, Acting Deputy Director
– Office of Film and Literature Classification

Refused Classification report

January 14, 2000
Board Report 99/3292

SYNOPSIS

The film which is a psychosexual drama in French with English subtitles, depicts a woman’s odyssey of sexual exploration as she attempts to free herself from the emotional binds of her indifferent male partner, who refuses her sexual advances. Following a series of sexual encounters with other men, and related sexual fantasies, the woman’s psychosexual angst is resolved in the conception of a child.

REASONS FOR THE DECISION

In the Classification Board’s majority view this film warrants an ‘RC’ Refused Classification for sexual violence within a film which contains sexually explicit material.

In arriving at the decision the Board considered the criteria set out in the National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Videotapes, Amendment No. 2, April 1999. The Board took into account submissions made by the applicant and the matters contained in section 11 of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Classification Act):

– the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults; and

– the literary, artistic or educational merit of the film; and

– the general character of the film; and including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character; and

– the persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.

The Board also took into account community concerns about sexual violence, explicit depictions of sexual activity and the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.

The film contains depictions of sexual activity, an implied depiction of sexual violence and adult themes of very high intensity.

The film contains explicit depictions of sexual activity.

Approximately 11 minutes – Marie and Paul are in bed and are discussing their relationship. Marie pulls back the sheet to reveal Paul’s penis. She leans over Paul, holds his flaccid penis and puts it into her mouth. The depiction of explicit fellatio is brief and partially obscured by the bed sheet.

Approximately 30-36 minutes – Marie and Paolo have met in a club and have gone back to his bedroom. They are shown lying together naked on the bed, he with an erect penis. Paolo opens a condom and rolls it onto his erect penis. He then explicitly masturbates himself, Marie explicitly masturbates him and the couple are then shown engaged in simulated rear entry thrusting intercourse during which glimpses of his erect penis are briefly visible as the camera pans over their bodies in close-up detail. After implicitly ejaculating he removes the condom, his erection visible as they talk.

Approximately 39 minutes – Marie and Paul are shown on a bed as she explicitly masturbates and fellates him, saying “I like that its not large, it fits in my hand and in my mouth”. Paul rejects her attentions and the scene is brief.

Approximately 80 minutes – Marie is shown on a bed with Paul. She is briefly shown explicitly masturbating him before engaging in simulated intercourse.

Approximately 84 minutes – Following a sequence at approximately 82 minutes, in which Marie is shown on an examination couch, her legs spread to camera, as numerous student doctors give her a brief internal examination to establish pregnancy. Marie visualises an intercut fantasy sequence, wherein the lower halves of women’s bodies are shown protruding from a wall in a brothel setting, their legs are splayed and genitals visible. Several men are shown milling around with erect penises, some of whom are explicitly masturbating. One man leans over one of the women and puts his head in her crotch. Another man ejaculates. A man with an erection approaches a woman to penetrate her. A majority of the Board considered that the penetration was explicitly shown, albeit brief. The upper halves of the women are shown with husbands and doctors.

In the majority opinion of the Board, the explicit depictions of actual sexual activity between consenting adults exceed the limits of the ‘R’ classification and warrant an ‘X’ classification.

The ‘R’ guidelines state:

‘Sexual activity may be realistically simulated; the general rule is “simulation, yes – the real thing, no”.

Nudity in a sexual context should not include obvious genital contact.’

Sexual Violence

The film contains a depiction of implied sexual violence at approximately 66 minutes:

A man approaches Marie as she is walking back to her flat at night and offers her money if he can ‘eat’ her. She agrees and is shown sitting on the stairs in the building with the man’s head between her splayed legs in implied cunnilingus. This activity appears to be consensual. Subsequently, the man orders her to turn over. She objects, tries to scuffle away from him, shakes her head at him and as he roughly turns her onto her stomach and thrusts aggressively in implied rear entry intercourse. He calls her a bitch and a whore. After implicitly ejaculating and withdrawing he states on leaving ‘I reamed you good’. Marie is left shaking on the stairwell saying ‘I’m not ashamed’.

The Board considered that this depiction, in isolation, may be accommodated in the ‘R’ classification.

The ‘R’ guidelines state:

‘Sexual violence may only be implied and should not be detailed.

Depictions must not be frequent, gratuitous or exploitative.’

However, the Board noted that such depiction exceeds the permissible limits of the ‘X’ classification. The National Classification Code criteria for ‘X’ permits the explicit depiction of sexual activity only between consenting adults.

The ‘X’ guidelines state:

‘No depiction of sexual violence, coercion, offensive fetishes, or depictions which purposefully debase or abuse for the enjoyment of viewers is permitted in this classification.’

Adult Themes

The Board noted that the film deals with an adult theme of very high intensity comprising depictions of mild fetish activity in which a naked woman is tied with ropes. The fetish theme and related depictions at approximately 53-58 minutes and 73-77 minutes are not considered to be exploitative. The Board considered that these elements could be accommodated within the ‘R’ classification.

Conclusion

A majority of the Board decided that the file is appropriately classified ‘RC’ as it contains explicit depictions of actual sexual activity, which exceed the ‘R’ classification but may be accommodated in the ‘X’ classification, and a depiction of implied sexual violence, which exceeds the ‘X’ classification, thereby warranting and ‘RC’ classification.

In the majority view, sexually explicit depictions generally cannot be accommodated within the R classification, as such depictions exceed general community expectations and standards relating to R classified films in cinemas and video stores.

The majority argued that the National Classification Code and the ‘R’ classification guidelines do not permit the explicit depiction of actual sexual activity in ‘R’ classified films.

The Board noted that the ‘X’ classification is a special and legally restricted category for sexually explicit activity between consenting adults and that this film is an art-house film made be a recognised director, which does not accord with the usual content of the ‘X’ classification. The ‘X’ classification does not permit depictions of sexual violence, sexualised violence or coercion.

The majority decided that, while the explicit depictions of sexual activity could be accommodated in the ‘X’ classification, the depiction of implied sexual violence could not be accommodated within the ‘X’ classification.

Accordingly, the Board decided by majority that the film required an ‘RC’ classification.

In arriving at this decision the Board considered the film maker’s credentials and artistic intent. The Board noted the applicant’s statements about the intended and likely audience of the film in Australia and that the film’s content would be well-heralded to prospective viewers. The Board noted that the film appears to be a serious artistic work, which is available for viewing by adult audiences in some comparable countries overseas, and that it is a foreign language film, which is not likely to have a wide public appeal in Australia.

However, the majority of the Board noted that the explicit depictions of sexual activity have not previously been permitted (other than in an educational context) in the ‘R’ classification, and that the Board’s role is to reflect and not to lead community standards in the application of statutory criteria.

The majority of the Board did not accept the argument that the existence of a limited Australian audience, as evidenced by the film’s screening before film festival audiences in Melbourne; and the release of the film overseas, provides evidence of a change in general Australian community standards. The majority noted that the film had been publicly released uncut in Britain under classification guidelines which permit certain sexually explicit material within the 18+ category, unlike the guidelines that the Board is required to apply in Australia, which do not permit such depictions in ‘R’ 18+ films.

A minority of the Board decided that the film could be accommodated in the ‘R’ classification. In the minority view, while the film may offend some sections of the adult community, it does not offend against generally accepted standards to the extent that it should be banned.

The minority argued that an ‘R’ classification in this instance would address each of the principles of the National Classification Code. Additionally arguing that an ‘R’ 18+ Restricted classification with appropriate consumer advice would effectively balance:

– the rights of adults to see, hear or read what they like; and

– the rights of minors to be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them; and

– everyone’s right to be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive

The minority decided that the sexually explicit content could be accommodated within the ‘R’ classification, taking into account matters set out in section 11 of the Classification Act and in accordance with the ‘R’ classification guidelines. The ‘R’ guidelines state that, ‘the general rule is simulation, yes – the real thing, no.’ In the minority view, the general rule provides the Board with discretion in certain limited instances to permit explicit depictions of sexual activity within an educational or artistic context within the ‘R’ classification.

The minority acknowledge that the sexually explicit scenes listed above may not in the past have been accommodated in the ‘R’ category. However, the minority argued that community standards are changing: the community is less concerned about sexual depictions than violent or especially sexually violent depictions in films, and is generally tolerant of sexual content within an artistic context. On this basis, the minority argued that the film could be accommodated within generally accepted community standards applying to artistic films intended for an adult audience within the statutory criteria applying to the ‘R’ classification.

– Classification Board report

Media coverage

January is a slow news month in Australia, so journalists leapt on the ROMANCE story.

January 15, 2000
“It’s a serious film,” the Chauvel’s [cinema] operator, Mr Alex Meskovic said. “It’s about a woman’s sexuality, that’s all. This is not a piece of exploitation or porn.”

He said ROMANCE was not as controversial as LOLITA, which was released with an R-rating last year.

“There are no children involved,” Mr Meskovic said. “It’s things people do every day of the week. It’s just ridiculous that adults can’t see films for adults.”

The executive director of the Melbourne International Film Festival, Ms Sandra Sdraulig, wrote to the OFLC board in November saying ROMANCE was “one of the most fascinating and articulate films to have dealt with female sexuality in recent times. I think it would be regrettable for it not to be seen in its entirety.”

The acting director of the OFLC, Mr Simon Webb [previous director, Kathryn Paterson, died September 1999], said the decision was “a line-ball vote” made on the basis of sexually explicit scenes, including a depiction of implied sexual violence.

The film “could not be accommodated with an R rating”, Mr Webb said, and it could not be released as an X-rated film as “the guidelines for the X category are quite specific in relation to sexual violence”.

But the guidelines also take into account “standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults” as well as artistic merit and the audience for which the film is intended. Mr Webb said the board did not set the guidelines and anyone who felt strongly about recent classifications should lobby to have the guidelines reviewed. “Our role is to reflect rather than lead community standards,” he said. “We probably need to have a debate in the community.”

– Film board says ‘no’ to Romance
smh.com.au

January 18, 2000
REBECCA BARRETT: To become a Senior Film Classifier in Australia you don’t need to have a working knowledge of cinema. In fact you don’t need any film qualifications. That’s a big concern for the film community.

SANDRA STRARLICH I think there has to be some understanding of what’s happening in film theory, and some kind of comprehension of how certain films are being perceived and accepted within the international framework, as well.

REBECCA BARRETT: Sandra Strarlich is the Executive Director of the Melbourne International Film Festival, which last year screened the French film ROMANCE which has just been banned from general release in Australia. There’s a perception in the film community that under the Howard Government, the role of film censorship has been taken out of the hands of experts and put into those of conservative, unqualified Australians.

Sydney Morning Herald film critic, Paul Burns, says the notion that the Board should represent real Australians is problematic.

PAUL BURNS: Yes. The Censorship Board should represent the general public but which general public are we talking about, you know? There are many. There is no one standard of agreement on censorship in this country and to pretend there is is just, you know, a way of keeping people from thinking about the issue.

REBECCA BARRETT: The Office of Film and Literature Classification has had a troubled recent history. It’s effectively been riderless since the sudden death of the Chief Censor, Catherine Paterson, last year. Twelve new censors were appointed to the Board in September, but not before the Federal Opposition accused the government of trying to stack it with Conservative Members.

ROBERT MCLELLAND [Shadow Attorney General]: What happened was that there was an eventual list of 20 names recommended by the government to the office, and those 20 had been selected through a detailed programme including interviews and a practical exam. Now what the government did they took four off that and added four people who hadn’t undergone the practical examination.

REBECCA BARRETT: Why do you believe they took four off?

ROBERT MCLELLAND: Well, I think the government’s view was that those people wouldn’t give the sort of decisions that the government was after.

REBECCA BARRETT: And what sort of decisions were they?

ROBERT MCLELLAND: Oh, I tend to think probably more conservative-leaning decisions.

REBECCA BARRETT: Many in the film community believe the Howard Government is responsible for an increasing climate of censorship in Australia. Mark Spratt, the Managing Director of Potential Films, the Australian distributor of ROMANCE, says some of the classification decisions in the past few years have taken longer than usual and been more restrictive than he expected.

MARK SPRATT: We have currently in release WINTER SLEEPERS. We had to wait for a decision on that because, you know, some of the classifiers thought it should be ‘MA’ which, well, I don’t know – it clearly shouldn’t to me. And eventually we did end up with an ‘M’.

REBECCA BARRETT: Alex Mescovich, the operator of Sydney’s Chavelle’s Cinema in Paddington, says he’s had more censorship wrangles since the Howard Government came to office.

ALEX MESCOVICH: Three films now I’ve been involved with we’ve had major battles with. The first one was HENRY – PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER which was banned on the subject of violence. Then there was a gay film called HUSTLER WHITE which was objectionable [inaudible] as they said, and now this one.

REBECCA BARRETT: The battle to show ROMANCE here isn’t over yet, with an appeal by the film’s distributor to be heard in a few weeks’ time. The Federal Government denies the Classification Board is too conservative and out of step with public opinion in Australia.

DARYL WILLIAMS [Attorney General]: The same office was criticised just a few months ago for being too liberal for failing to ban a film, so …

REBECCA BARRETT: Is this in regard to LOLITA?

DARYL WILLIAMS: That’s the film I had had in mind, yes. So if you’re getting criticism from both directions, it’s likely we’re getting the balance pretty close to right.

– Movie censors accused of being too conservative
PM @ abc.net.au

January 19, 2000
ALISON CALDWELL: For some, classifiers of films like ROMANCE are sadly few and far between, according to former Board member Rob Edsel.

ROB EDSEL: Those kind of films were always a joy. I mean the work of the Board becomes pretty mundane sometimes. There is a lot of stuff which is dross that you wouldn’t watch, you know, in a fit, if you had a choice not to watch it, and so when a film like ROMANCE comes along, which incidentally I haven’t seen and I wasn’t on the Board before screening that film, it’s a joy because there are some issues – the film is an intelligent film by all accounts, it’s got some challenging issues from a censorship point of view, and the discussions about those issues are good, and it also gives you a chance to kind of test the guidelines and how appropriate they are, or how successful they are in dealing with more challenging kind of material.

ALISON CALDWELL: Last year the Board classified 340 films for cinema release, only 15 received R ratings, no films were banned.

What’s the difference between an X rated film and an R rated film?

ROB EDSEL: An X rated film allows for actual depictions of real sex, so …

ALISON CALDWELL: Not simulated sex?

ROB EDSEL: Not simulated sex, no. The R guidelines talk about the general rule is simulated okay, the real thing no. That’s at the R level.

ALISON CALDWELL: Why is that?

ROB EDSEL: Good question. That’s the way the guidelines have been framed and it seems, you know, it seems to be that actual sort of penetrative sex or other explicit sex is in the X category, that’s the way it got [indistinct].

ALISON CALDWELL: You’ve seen those sorts of films, is there a difference between a simulated sex scene and an actual sex scene?

ROB EDSEL: There is. You know, there’s a lot of techniques and clever directing and so on to sort of create as much sexiness and as much heat in R level sex scenes without actually being explicit about the sex. There’s not so much craft and artifice in the X films, they’re pretty boring and pretty quickly [indistinct] because you’ve got it all up front and straight in front of you from the word go and of course not much attention to plots or dialogue or whatever else, so yes, there’s big difference.

ALISON CALDWELL: Federal and State Attorney-Generals draw up the classifications guidelines which deal broadly with sex, violence, and language. The current guidelines were established in 1996. While the Board is meant to reflect community standards Rob Edsel says politicians will also want their views to be reflected.

ROB EDSEL: In my time at the Board there was a lot of lobbying by Senator Brian Harradine and other politicians about issues in the community and how the Board should treat certain elements and whatever else. He would exert quite a bit of pressure I think on the office and the managers of the office and the directors of the office and so on. Now it’s the directors responsibility in my view to shield the Board from that kind of pressure.

In my experience as a Board member at the time was that I think some of that pressure crept through to the Board and, you know, in my time as a Board member I have to say I think at some stages there was political pressure to make a decision on a certain film as well that to some extent I think there was an executive style of management of the Office of Film and Literature Classification which sometimes some of that political pressure I think bled through to the way the Board made its decisions.

– Claims censorship board is out-of-touch
The World Today @ abc.net.au

January 20, 2000
The director of the French film ROMANCE says she is “shocked and hurt” by the film’s banning in Australia.

In a letter to be sent to the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) and the review panel that will hear an appeal, Catherine Breillat says she regards ROMANCE as among the most accomplished of her six films.

“Though the film is more visually radical than my previous films, what I wanted to show was not provocative but deeply thought and felt as a female director,” Breillat wrote.

“Nudity, love and sex are part of our daily life and if my film is sexually explicit, it has nothing to do with a porn movie.

“It is rather the opposite approach, as a critic of the prestigious UK magazine Time Out has well noticed, calling it an ‘anti-porn movie’.”

…Mark Spratt, from Potential Films, says he has forwarded an appeal and expects it to be heard in the next few weeks.

Breillat notes in her letter, which a colleague in Paris says “has already been sent to a few difficult censorship boards”, that the film has been screened at festivals in Jerusalem, New York, Montreal and Toronto and has been sold to “all major and minor territories”.

Mr Spratt says he has been overwhelmed by media and public support for the overturning of the ban.

“It’s put the OFLC under a huge spotlight the way they’re operating, the way the Government wants them to operate.”

He says he is not “100 per cent confident” of winning the appeal but hopes the review panel will take into account the level of support for the film and realise “it’s not offensive enough to community standards to go to the lengths of banning it”

– Dismayed director pleads for removal of film ban
smh.com.au

January 21, 2000
We, the members of the Watch on Censorship, are writing to you with reference to the recent decision of the Film and Literature Classification Board to refuse classification of Catherine Breillat’s film, ROMANCE.

We are disappointed by the decision, especially as it was made by such a narrow majority. It is our view that ROMANCE is a serious work deserving of exhibition to adult Australians. Surely the Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act in acknowledging the right of adults to see, read or hear what they like, presupposes that they are in a position to form their own opinion about whether or not to view this film? This is particularly the case in view of the film’s uncut release in New Zealand, United Kingdom, France and the United States among many others – and indeed its screening at the Melbourne Film Festival last year.

The majority decision appears to rely almost entirely on one of the Guidelines which states: “Sexual activity may be realistically simulated; the general rule is ‘simulation, yes – the real thing, no'”.

In this instance this guideline seems to have been used as mandatory rule rather than as a discretionary guideline. Further this guideline has been given undue emphasis, and other equally appropriate guidelines appear to have been dismissed. The guidelines also require the Board to give equal weight to the artistic and educational content and merit of a film.

Lamentably the OFLC has hindered informed debate about this decision through its failure to adequately publicise its decisions and publish it reasons. The fact that the film is subject to appeal to the Film Board of Review is no reason to avoid public scrutiny of the decision making process. For the OFLC to fulfill its mandate to reflect and respond to public concerns and community standards, it is essential that there be transparency of process. To this end we would like to suggest the following:

– Prompt publication on the OFLC website of Board decisions with majority and minority reasons and numbers;

– Public disclosure of any proposed guidelines along with the submissions made in response to them;

– Publication on the OFLC website of the results of all research, surveys, polls, etc. regarding community attitudes conducted by the OFLC or on the OFLC’s behalf;

– Accountability of independent review in light of submissions, and publication of consultants’ reports and recommendations;

– Inclusion in OFLC online database of titles at the time of submission for classification, and the status of review or classification, and accurate running times for classified films, including a listing of cuts made to the originally submitted film;

– Publication of the appointment of all Classifiers, full-time, part-time and temporary along with their qualifications for the positions;

– In addition to the database, a listing and copies of all recent decisions made by the OFLC and the Film Board of Review.

– All press releases issued by the OFLC available from its website.

We recommend the implementation of these points in the spirit of the recent comments made in the press by the Acting Directors, Simon Webb and Peter Harvey, who have both encouraged more public debate about the adequacy of the existing guidelines, and we look forward to participating in the process which will deliver a more accountable and transparent classification.

This letter prepared and authorised by;
Kate Gilroy, Rebecca Huntley, Michael Jacobs, Gayle Lake, Tina Kaufman, David Marr, Jane Mills, Raena Lea-Shannon, Julian Wood.

– To: Simon Webb & Peter Harvey. Acting Directors, OFLC
– From: Watch on Censorship

January 21, 2000
A panel of classifiers from the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) would have released the sexually explicit film with an R rating. But it was decided to call together a second panel and the film was then refused classification, or banned.

ROMANCE was first seen by a panel of 14, which favoured the film’s release by a margin of 8-6, the Herald has learnt.

But the OFLC announced last Friday that the film would be banned from general release after a further screening to a larger board that included classifiers regarded as holding more conservative views.

The ultimate vote to ban the film was 9-8.

It is believed a classifier on the first panel was wavering on whether to release the film and the OFLC acting director, Mr Simon Webb, was concerned he would have the casting vote.

Mr Webb is on leave from the OFLC but his temporary replacement, Mr Peter Harvey, said no official vote was taken by the first panel. But the Herald has established the first panel was leaning toward its release.

“I do not believe there was ever a vote,” Mr Harvey said yesterday. “We discuss how people are thinking about it but no decision was ever taken at the first meeting.”

He said that “at least three of the board” were not present at the first meeting of classifiers on December 6 and “the decision was to hold [the classification] over to the next board” meeting on December 21.

“We did not have all the members and what we try to do is get as many members as possible to look at [controversial] films like this,” he said.

Up to 20 board members can participate in the classification of a film.

A standard film may only require three classifiers. However, if the classifiers do not agree, more are called in. It is not uncommon for controversial films to be seen by a full board.

One of the additional classifiers on the second board was Ms Mary Moos. It is understood Mr Robert Hellmers was also called in for the second panel. Both are believed to have conservative views.

Two other temporary classifiers, Mr Damien Power [Director of KILLING GROUND (2016)] and Ms Christine Mearing, thought to be more liberal, were apparently not on the second panel. Mr Harvey said he assumed Mr Power and Ms Mearing had been asked to vote. “We tried to get as many people as we could to see the film. We are not trying to lead public opinion but follow the act and the guidelines.”

– Romance killed by conservatives
smh.com.au

January 21, 2000
COMPERE: Sources close to the Film Classification Board have told The World Today the Board banned the film in a second screening, although a majority of classifiers voted in favour of its release under ‘R’ classification at the first screening before the Board.

Sources say Board management called in temporary members to boost the numbers in favour of a conservative outcome on the film…sources say the organisation is dysfunctional, with deep divisions between management and Board members.

MARK SPRATT [Potential Films]: It becomes more disturbing by the day as more revelations come out of the office of how the office actually works. You know the office is actually fully funded by the clients. These are, you know, distributors, publishers, etcetera, and we expect, you know, the process to be done in a, you know, a very fair and impartial manner.

Now it appears that there are influences within or coming from outside the OFLC to push them towards the conservative side which is, I don’t believe, in the public interest. It’s not what the public wants or expects.

ALISON CALDWELL: Sources close to the Board have told The World Today the organisation is deeply divided between Board members and Board management. Management consists of a Director, Deputy Director, and two senior classifiers. Since the death of Catherine Patterson last year, former classifier Simon Webb has been brought in as Acting Director with career bureaucrat Peter Harvey his deputy.

Peter Harvey was appointed by the Attorney-General last year following the controversy surrounding the film LOLITA. Interviews have been conducted for the two positions. The Board is awaiting an announcement from Cabinet about the successful candidates.

The two senior classifier positions are also being replaced. Those positions have been advertised and re-advertised three times in the past twelve months.

Managerial experience of the highest order is required, along with experience in a cost-recovery environment. Previous experience in film classification is down the list.

One source describes it as a sick office, plagued by a strong sense of distrust and a bunker mentality. The Board members themselves are not always at odds. Discussion about most films is described as being detailed, intelligent and vigorous. Panels usually consist of three classifiers, but one source says often management will construct panels where they can predict a conservative outcome. Managers have to deal with Canberra on a regular basis, and politicians aren’t afraid to let them know if they’ve overstepped the mark.

Sources say the major concern for several years has been the appointment of classifiers. Since 1996 some directors have employed temporary members. Those positions don’t have to be advertised, and while they’re meant to last just three months, some of them are still there years on.

Temporary members aren’t listed in the annual report, and there’s no record of their appointment.

ALISON CALDWELL: With ROMANCE it may have been a case of bad timing. The bulk of the new Board was appointed in September. Some members had only screened two films previously before they were expected to judge ROMANCE. Sources say there were two screenings, initially a panel voted 8-6 in favour of an ‘R’ classification. But for some unknown reason, part-time or temporary members were called in, including one who’s actually in retirement. And on the second screening the new panel voted 9-8 to ban the film.

– Appeal launched against film ban
The World Today @ abc.net.au

January 21, 2000
COMPERE: The acting director of the Film Classification Board, Peter Harvey, rejects allegations that a conversation stack was on on the committee which reviewed this film and its classification. He joined us to speak to Alison Caldwell.

ALISON CALDWELL: Peter Harvey, would you say that the Board has become dysfunctional?

PETER HARVEY: Definitely not, Alison. The Board, in fact, is going, it’s riding a crest of a wave at the moment. It has a number of new appointments. In fact seven full-time members and four part-time members were appointed in September last year. And we are looking forward to a new director being appointed shortly.

ALISON CALDWELL: So, seven full time members, four part-time, that’s 11. Why did we end up with 17 people looking at ROMANCE?

PETER HARVEY: Well, I think the Board considered that it was a very important film and we should get the broadest cross-section of members of the Board looking at that particular film.

ALISON CALDWELL: But I understand that you brought in people, one person who is in retirement, and you brought in people who are known to have a conservative outlook?

PETER HARVEY: No, I deny that people are known to have a conservative outlook. We brought in everybody who we felt could see the screening. We had two screenings. Some members of the Board, some long time serving members of the Board were not available to see the initial screening and we ended up with 17 viewing it in the long term. Now, some of the people we brought in who were temporary appointments in fact have up to 20 years experience in classification. And I think they were well qualified to make a judgment on this particular film.

ALISON CALDWELL: What do you say to the claim that management, over the years, has often constructed panels where they can predict a conservative outcome?

PETER HARVEY: I think it’s just total nonsense, Alison, quite frankly.

ALISON CALDWELL: How can you say that?

PETER HARVEY: Well, from my experience here in recent time I see absolutely no evidence of that taking place. I’ve never heard the allegation before.

ALISON CALDWELL: Peter, how many films have you classified?

PETER HARVEY: I sit in on the more controversial films. I couldn’t tell you a number at this stage, but I’ve been part of the Board since late October.

ALISON CALDWELL: I understand that previously you had no experience as a classifier?

PETER HARVEY: That’s correct. I’m a career bureaucrat, but I’d say I represent the general community as much as anybody else.

ALISON CALDWELL: What about the claim that because you are a career bureaucrat you’re closely connected to Canberra and that you’re very well aware of the Canberra feeling about issues like family values and sex and violence?

PETER HARVEY: No, I don’t think that’s an issue at all, Alison, quite frankly. I come here to do a job. I assist in the management of the Board and the management of the office and I just apply normal community standards to any issue that I’m asked to make a view on.

ALISON CALDWELL: Peter, what about the claim that since 1996 directors have employed temporary members which they’re quite allowed to do, but that those temporary positions which are meant to only last about three months have become on-going positions for say four years, and those positions don’t have to be advertised. They’re not listed in the annual report and there’s no record of their appointment?

PETER HARVEY: Alison, the situation was that there was a huge backlog of matters needing to be addressed and that’s why we’ve used temporary appointments. They help us to overcome any shortfall in full time appointments. They’re qualified people, they’re experienced people and they do a very good job. And even in this point in time we’re still working hard to provide a good service to our clients and to reduce a significant backlog of work.

– Film board rejects allegations over Romance
The World Today @ abc.net.au

January 21, 2000
CAMILLE FUNNELL: Staying with censorship, I spoke earlier this afternoon to Federal Attorney General Daryl Williams.

Have you seen the film ROMANCE? Do you think it should have been banned?

DARYL WILLIAMS: No, I haven’t seen it.

CAMILLE FUNNELL: From what you’ve heard of it, do you think it should be … have been banned?

DARYL WILLIAMS: Well, I can only go on the decision made by a majority of the Classification Board. They’ve given their reasons and the reasons seem to be valid. It seems that the film straddles the X and the R categories and doesn’t comply with either precisely.

CAMILLE FUNNELL: David Marr of the Watch on Censorship Group has described the film as very serious, very French. He says there’s some erections in it, a few torrid sex scenes, but he says it’s not trash. Where’s the offence in that?

DARYL WILLIAMS: Well, it’s not a question of what is the offence, it’s a question of the Classification Board applying the guidelines that have been agreed by … by all governments. Those guidelines set out a number of criteria and it’s for the Board to apply them in assessing each work. A publication or a film or a computer game.

CAMILLE FUNNELL: Are you satisfied with the way the Film Classification Board operates?

DARYL WILLIAMS: I think the Film Classification Board, well the Office of Film and Literature Classification to give it its proper title, actually does an excellent job.

CAMILLE FUNNELL: Well on AM this morning we heard that the Board was quote racked with distrust, marred by disputes between Board Members and managers, unwieldy with the introduction of temporary classifiers and to the point where some say it’s actually dysfunctional.

DARYN WILLIAMS: Well I totally reject that. Em, the Board unfortunately lost its Director tragically in August. I know that there was a significant number of new staff started towards the end of the year so they’ll be having to fit in. But that description of the Board is … is not the Board I’m aware of.

CAMILLE FUNNELL: Sources told AM this morning that management could construct panels whereby they were confident of a conservative outcome. How can you be sure that’s not happening?

DARYL WILLIAMS: Well, I’m quite sure it’s not happening. I don’t know why the … anybody within the office would want to be pursuing an agenda like that. Their function is to classify according to … to the guidelines agreed by the Ministers and in general terms the work that they do meets with the … with approval from everybody.

There are not many things that are banned. Out of nearly 3,000 films assessed in the last financial year, less than one in a hundred was refused classification. They … I’m not aware of the individual reasons. There is not a sort of a banning mentality applied by the Office of Film and Literature Classification. On the contrary they’re simply seeking to classify films in the appropriate way and if a film doesn’t fit within any of the categories’ guidelines then it must be refused classification.

– Williams defends classification board
PM @ abc.net.au

January 22, 2020
… Peter Harvey, said yesterday it was nonsense to suggest the office had brought in more conservative classifiers for a second panel after an earlier panel had favoured the film’s release.

Asked if he was involved in the selecting the three extra classifiers, Mr Harvey said “I get involved in a number of things”, but would not detail the selection process.

The Federal Attorney-General, Mr Williams, said he was absolutely sure the board had not been stacked. “They do have a lot of relatively new people at the moment,” he said. “It was on that basis that they set out to get in more experienced people.”

Mr Williams said he was not concerned the public was losing confidence in the classification process. “What is a bit annoying is that film critics seem to think that their view of the world is the one that should prevail,” he said.

…Mark Spratt from Potential Films, said he believed the process of classifying ROMANCE raised broader questions about censorship, including the relationship between the OFLC and the Government. “Although you can’t guarantee the way anybody is going to vote, I imagine there was a fairly clear idea of who was being asked to also judge the film.”

– Censor board was not stacked
smh.com.au

January 24, 2000
ANNIE WHITE: The Film Classification Board is being accused of being distracted by controversial mainstream cinema releases while neglecting other serious responsibilities. In fact AM has been told child pornography has effectively been stockpiled in the board’s vaults while it pursues classifications of popular movies.

Police and customs officials rely on the classification board to assess videos dealing with child pornography before prosecutions can go ahead. But AM has also been told that as a result of the delays in dealing with child pornography, prosecutions are being held up.

ALISON CALDWELL: While the Film Classification Board agonises over sex on our cinema screens, videos dealing with rape and child pornography have sat on shelves in the board’s Sydney offices waiting for classification. Material seized by police and customs officials is sent to the board for classification before a prosecution can take place. But a source close to the classification board has told AM videos dealing with child pornography sat on the board’s shelves for over 10 months. This means Australian Federal Police or state police would have been prevented from investigating and charging those responsible for importing or creating the child pornography. It’s understood the board received complaints from the Ombudsman about the delay in processing the material.

The Film Classification is responsible for classifying and advising police and customs referrals. Since 1996 the board has held training seminars for police and customs officials to better understand the guidelines relating to publications, films and computer games with an emphasis on child pornography. When the Film Classification Board receives material from the authorities, it’s meant to be fast-tracked through the classification process to allow prosecutions to proceed. One source says a large amount of material has sat on the shelf for months at a time, possibly holding up prosecutions.

– Film classification board’s priorities under fire
AM @ abc.net.au

January 24, 2000
Whether or not the ban on ROMANCE is reversed by the Review Board of the Office of Film and Literature Classification, it is clear from the media and public reaction to the initial banning of the film together with the ensuing disclosures about the processes within the OFLC that some examination of our classification system, the current guidelines and how decisions are being reached is urgently needed.

On January 14 the OFLC refused classification of the French film ROMANCE, despite describing it as a serious artistic work. Unusually, the film was seen by seventeen members of the Classification Board, and the vote was nine to eight in favour of refusing the film classification. Watch On Censorship has written to the OFLC strenuously protesting this decision by such a narrow majority, and calling for urgent reforms to the procedures and public accountability of the OFLC.

Watch on Censorship was originally formed in a public assembly held at the Chauvel Cinema in Sydney in 1996, in urgent response to the unwarranted tightening of the censorship regulations; its object is to protect and promote the rights of adult Australians to freedom of speech and expression in all media. Since its formation WOC has publicly commented upon the growing conservatism of the classification system, as the range of films Australians have the opportunity to see becoming increasingly limited.

Watch on Censorship argues that the Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act, in acknowledging the right of adults to see, read or hear what they like, presupposes that those adults are in a position to form their own opinion about whether or not to view this film, particularly in view of the film’s uncut release in New Zealand, United Kingdom, France and the United States among many others – and indeed its screening at the Melbourne Film Festival last year.

This revised classification system came into practice in 1996 and was initially presented as a practical and long overdue revision of an outdated system, a re-organisation of unnecessarily complicated procedures. However the guidelines were attached without the recommended three month public consultation process. WOC believes that the OFLC is currently using some guidelines as mandatory rather than discretionary, and dismissing other, equally appropriate, guidelines, such as those which require the Board to give equal weight to the artistic and educational content and merit of a film.

WOC also argues that the OFLC has hindered informed debate about this decision through its failure to adequately publicise its decisions and publish its reasons. The fact that the film is subject to appeal to the Film Board of Review is no reason to avoid public scrutiny of the decision making process.

For the OFLC to fulfill its mandate to reflect and respond to public concerns and community standards, it is essential that there be transparency of process. With the Classification Board so evenly split, however, it would appear that the OFLC itself is unsure about just what community standards it is reflecting.

To this end WOC has made a number of suggestions to the OFLC, including: the prompt publication on the OFLC website of Board decisions, with majority and minority reasons and numbers; the inclusion in an online database of titles at the time of submission for classification, and the status of review or classification, with accurate running times for classified films and including a listing of cuts made to the originally submitted film; in addition to the database, a listing and copies of all recent decisions made by the OFLC and the Film Board of Review; all press releases issued by the OFLC to be available from its website.

WOC has also recommended public disclosure of any proposed guidelines, along with submissions made in response to them; publication on the OFLC web site of the results of all research, surveys and polls regarding community attitudes conducted by the OFLC or on the OFLC’s behalf; accountability of independent review in light of submissions, and publication of consultants’ reports and recommendations; publication of the appointment of all classifiers, full-time, part-time and temporary, along with their qualifications for the positions.

WOC recommends the implementation of these points in the spirit of recent comments made in the press by the Acting Directors, Simon Webb and Peter Harvey, who have both encouraged more public debate about the adequacy of the existing guidelines, and looks forward to participating in the process which will deliver a more accountable and transparent classification system.

– Media Release
– Watch on Censorship Committee

R-rated report

January 28, 2000
23-33 Mary Street
Surry Hills, NSW

PRESENT:
Ms Barbara Biggins (Convenor)
Mr Ross Tzannes (Acting Deputy Convenor)
Ms Joan Yardley
Ms Glenda Banks
Ms Robin Harvey

APPLICANT:
Potential Films

BUSINESS:
To review the decision of the Classification Board to assign the classification RC (Refused Classification) under the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 to the film ROMANCE.

DECISION AND REASONS FOR DECISION

1. Decision

The Classification Review Board decided to set aside the decision of the Classification Board to classify the film ROMANCE RC (Refused Classification), and to classify the film R 18+ with the consumer advice “High Level Sex Scenes”.

2. Legislative provisions

The Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act) governs the classification of films and the review of classification decisions. The Act provides that films be classified in accordance with the National Classification Code and the classification guidelines.

Relevantly, para 11 of the Act require that “The matters to be taken into account in making a decision on the classification of …a film… include

(a) the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults; and

(b) the literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the … film…; and

(c) the general character of the …film…, including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character; and

(d) the persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published

The National Classification Code (the Code) requires that “Classification decisions are to give effect, as far as possible, to the following principles:

a) adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want;

b) minors should be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them;

c) everyone should be protected from exposure to unsolicited material that they find offensive;

d) the need to take account of community concerns about:

i) depictions that condone or incite violence, particularly sexual violence; and

ii) the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.

Paragraph 1 of the Table under the heading “films”, in the National Classification Code provides that films that:

a) depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or addiction, crime or cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in such as way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified; or

b) depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult a minor who is or who looks like, a person under 16 (whether engaged or not in sexual activity); or

c) promote, incite or instruct in matters of crime or violence

are to be classified RC.

3. Procedure

3 1 The Board heard oral submissions from Mr Mark Spratt and Mr Alex Meskovic representing Potential Films at its meeting on 28 January 2000.

The Board subsequently viewed the film ROMANCE.

4. Matters taken into account

In reaching its decision the Review Board had regard to the following:

(a) the applicant’s application for Review

(b) oral submissions made on behalf of the applicant by Mr Mark Spratt and Mr Alex Meskovic.

(c) the film ROMANCE

(d) the relevant provisions in the Act

(e) the relevant provisions in the National Classification Code as amended in accordance with Section 6 of the Act, and as endorsed by the Censorship Ministers.

(f) the current Classification Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Videotapes determined under Section 12 of the Act.

5. Findings on material questions of fact

5.1 The film’s theme and plot

ROMANCE is a French language film with English subtitles, directed by Catherine Breillat. It concerns a woman, Marie, who is sexually rejected by Paul, the man she loves. She embarks on an odyssey of sexual exploration in an attempt to free herself from emotional subservience to her uncaring partner and to find personal independence and fulfilment. By the end of the film the woman’s psychosexual angst is resolved in the birth of her and Paul’s child and motherhood.

Whilst tracking her sexual encounters with other men and her related fantasies, the film seeks to offer insights about fidelity, about the interrelationship of sex and love and the female condition in couple relationships.

5.2 Sexual depictions in the film

5.2.1. At 11 minutes, Marie and Paul are in bed and arc discussing their relationship. Towards the end of the scene, Marie pulls back the bed sheet and appears to place his flaccid penis in her mouth. The scene is brief and the implied fellatio is partly obscured by the bed sheet.

5.2.2. At approximately 30-36 minutes Marie and Paolo, a casual pickup, have met in a club and gone back to his bedroom. They are shown lying together naked on the bed, he with an erection. The following sequence explicitly depicts Paolo rolling a condom on to his erect penis. After Paulo has masturbated, Marie explicitly fondles his penis. This is followed by a scene of realistically simulated thrusting intercourse and an explicit removal of the condom.

5.2.3 At approximately 39 minutes and 80 minutes there are brief explicit scenes of Marie manually arousing Paul, and in at least one instance of Marie performing seemingly explicit fellatio on him.

5.2.4 At 53-58 minutes and 73-77 minutes there are scenes of sexual bondage in which Marie consents to being tied up with ropes by a male. The sequence includes a scene where the man cuts her panties with scissors and it is implied that he digitally manipulates her. Throughout he is careful not to cause her pain and relaxes the rope at one stage at her request.

5.2.5 At approximately 66 minutes, a man approaches Marie as she is walking back to her flat at night and offers her money if he can “ea”t her. She agrees and is shown sitting on the stairs in the building with the man’s head between her splayed legs. She objects when the man orders her to turn over and tries to free herself from him. He roughly turns her onto her stomach and thrusts aggressively at her, in implied rear intercourse. As he leaves her, Marie displays distress at the rape and defiantly shouts after him “I’m not ashamed”.

5.2.6 At 84 minutes after Marie has been internally examined by a number of medical students to establish pregnancy, she has a fantasy in which the lower halves of women’s bodies are seen protruding from holes in a wall while a number of naked men engage in a variety of sexual activities including masturbation.

5.3 The Review Board found that the graphic depictions of sexual activity would undoubtedly offend some people.

However, a majority of the Review Board also found the film to have serious intent and artistic merit. This majority also found that, with appropriate consumer advice, the film could be accommodated within the guidelines for the legally restricted R18+ classification.

5.4 A minority of the Review Board found the some of the themes had a very high degree of intensity, and that their treatment was exploitative. Therefore the minority considered the film could not be accommodated in the R 18+ category.

6. REASONS FOR THE DECISION

6.1 In arriving at the decision, the Board first considered the general principles of the National Classification Code, and noted that the first of the four principles is that as far as possible:-

“(a) adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want”.

Principles (b) and (c) supplement the first principle and relate respectively to the protection of minors and the protection of people from exposure to unsolicited offensive material. The R18+ classification is consistent with these principles.

The four principle deals with community concerns but expressly confines them to depictions that condone or incite violence, and to the portrayal of persons in a demeaning manner.

There is no suggestion in the Classification Board’s decision that the film condones or incites violence, and the Review Board concurs. For a film to depict a person in a demeaning manner, the guidelines require that the depiction must be either indirectly or directly sexual in nature and must debase or appear to debase the person or the character depicted. In the Board’s majority view the film is a serious study from a feminist viewpoint of one woman’s journey from emotional subservience to the man she loves who physically rejects her, to personal independence and fulfilment. As such, it is anything but a demeaning portrayal. The film does not depersonalise her nor does it invite hatred or ridicule in the viewer.

6.2 The Board then considered the relevant guidelines for the R18+ classification as applied to this film. The film contains an implied depiction of sexual violence, adult themes of very high intensity, and depictions of simulated and seemingly actual sexual activity.

6.3 The scene of sexual violence is described above at 66 minutes. It is of high intensity. The activity at first is consensual but this later changes and the man handles her roughly. The depiction of the assault is not detailed and the sexual violence is implied and not graphically shown. The context is not gratuitous or exploitative and the film contains no other scenes of non-consensual violence. As such the Review Board agreed with the Classification Board that this scene can be accommodated in the “R18+ Restricted” classification.

6.4 The scenes at 53-58 minutes and 73-77 minutes are prolonged sequences showing bondage in a sexual context. This fetish activity occupies two lengthy sequences and so constitutes an adult theme with a very high degree of intensity.

However, in the opinion of the majority of the Review Board, the scenes are not exploitative which is defined in the guidelines as ” appearing to purposefully debase or abuse for the enjoyment of viewers, and lacking moral, artistic or other values”. Nor is it gratuitous. The woman is a consenting party, and the man in question is shown at all times to be solicitous of the woman’s physical well-being. The scenes are integral to the film’s plot and theme. The majority of the Review Board accordingly agreed with the Classification Board that this element could be accommodated within the R18+ Restricted classification.

6 5 The film contains a number of graphic depictions of sexual activity. Whilst there is no obvious portrayal of explicit sexual intercourse, there are two scenes containing strong images of male genitalia and two other brief scenes involving male and female masturbation and scenes depicting partly obscured fellatio. The scenes are integral to the plot and are not considered to be either exploitative or gratuitous.

ln the R18+ Restricted classification, “sexual activity may be realistically simulated; the general rule is “simulation, yes – the real thing no”.

For the most part the sexual activity depicted is simulated albeit at times very realistically. “The real thing” possibly may have occurred in the fellatio scene, aud certainly in the masturbation scenes.

The “rule” referred to above is expressed to be a general rule, implying the possibility of exceptions in a limited number of instances.

After careful consideration the majority of the Board decided that the limited discretion implicit in the application of the rule should be exercised in this film’s favour. ln coming to this conclusion the Board took into account matters required by section 11 of the Act and found that the film was:-

(a) of serious intent and considered by many to have artistic merit.

(b) not exploitative or gratuitous.

(c) generally a thought provoking discourse on the role and experience of a woman in a couple relationship from a radical feminist perspective and that it contains few popular entertainment values.

(d) likely to appeal to a relatively sophisticated section of the public with some familiarity with the issues it raises.

6.6 Finally, the Board considered whether the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults would be breached to an unacceptable extent if the film were to be screened.

Undoubtedly the film would offend some people. The guidelines define “offensive” as material which causes outrage or extreme disgust to most people. However, the Board is of the view that a majority of reasonable adults (even if some would choose not to see the film themselves) would not be offended by other adults being able to do so if they chose.

In reaching this conclusion the Board was influenced by the belief that the Australian community is more accepting of a film containing controversial elements that arc sexual in nature, are not violent or exploitative of women, are placed in a serious artistic context, and are unlikely to cause harm to an adult viewer.

In this respect, the majority of this Board agreed with the minority view of the Classification Board that an R18+ Restricted classification with the consumer advice “High Level Sex Scenes” for this film would be consistent with the general principles governing decisions under the Code and “effectively balance the rights of adults to see, hear or read what they like; the rights of minors to be protected from material likely to harm or disturb them; and. everyone’s right to be protected from unsolicited material they find offensive.”

7. Summary

7.1 The Review Board’s decision is to classify the film ROMANCE R18+, with the consumer advice “High Level Sex Scenes”.

This decision is taken after full consideration of the applicant’s submission, and after assessing the film as a whole against the relevant legislative criteria, including those contained in the Code and in the current Classification Guidelines for Films and Videotapes determined under Section 12 of the Act.

– Barbara Biggins , Convenor
– Classification Review Board

Media reaction

January 29, 2000
…Mark Spratt, said it was an important decision for the classification of films for an adult audience.

“It does show that public opinion is more important than the narrow agendas of bureaucrats,” he said.

The acting deputy convener of the review board, Mr Ross Tzannes, said the decision followed the general principle in the classification guidelines that “adults should be able to read, hear and see what they want”.

“The board also believed the film’s sexual depictions do not offend against standards generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent [that it should be banned].”

Mr Tzannes said the decision did not set a precedent for sexually explicit films.

Mr Spratt said the decision brought Australia in line with the rest of the world “in allowing adults to see a serious adult film”.

Distributors could now be more confident about the classification of more explicit films. He expected much greater interest in ROMANCE as a result of its banning.

…Alex Meskovic [Chauvel Cinema], said he planned to open the film “as quick as we can get the prints out here”. It is likely to screen in three Sydney cinemas.

“Finally we get some sense into the stupid censorship system we’ve got in this country,” he said.

The Federal Attorney-General, Mr Williams, said accusations that classifiers were out of touch with community standards were unfair and ill-informed.

– Romance given second chance
smh.com.au

Sneak peek

On February 23, ROMANCE was previewed at Paddington’s Chauvel cinema.

February 24, 2000
…Alex Meskovic, said he had invited film-lovers and others interested in the censorship debate.

“I wanted to go the cerebral route rather than, `Wow, look at all the genitals’,” he said.

The controversy over the film showed the need to be vigilant on the issue of censorship, he said.

“Any threat to what adults can see and hear has to be fought vigorously.”

… Mark Spratt from Potential Films, said the controversy seemed odd at this time in the country’s history.

“All these battles were fought 30 years ago in Australia.”

ROMANCE was “not a titillation piece but certainly it is explicit and is going to be very confronting to some people,” he said.

Following the publicity over its banning, Mr Spratt said he expected the film to do well.

“Whether it turns out to be a flash in the pan or something that will settle in and get a very interested audience over a long time is hard to say.”

– Sydney finds there ‘s no Romance without sex
smh.com.au

February 25, 2000
…Christian Democrat MP Fred Nile condemning ROMANCE’s release as a victory for the porn industry and “the vocal immoral left-wing minority who oppose all quality controls over films, video or TV”.

The four members of a panel assembled by the Herald for the premiere had no concerns about the film’s release with an R rating.

“It’s certainly not a movie that ought to have been refused classification,” insisted Rodney Molesworth from the Federation of Parents’ and Citizens’ Associations of NSW. It was also “too serious” and “unexciting”, he said.

Sarah Maddison, from the Women’s Electoral Lobby, hoped before the screening that ROMANCE was an important film but left the cinema unconvinced. “I could see where she wanted to go I don’t know that it got there.” Maddison said she was baffled by the film’s banning.

The chaplain at St Andrew’s Cathedral School, Michael Jensen, admitted to “gut reactions” to some scenes, but considered it a long way from pornography. “The scene most people seemed to gasp at was the childbirth scene.”

Jensen believed the OFLC was mistaken in its decision to ban ROMANCE, but believed there was a need for a clearer, more sophisticated and more informative censorship system. “It wasn’t aimed at the general public. It was a cappuccino-set movie, really. So I can’t get too worked up about what was going on in it.”

The one scene he did not want to watch involved a sexual fantasy. “It was so degrading of the women involved, although the irony is that’s actually the woman’s fantasy.”

A former deputy chief censor turned porn film-maker [BUFFY DOWN UNDER (1998)], David Haines, considered ROMANCE interesting and engrossing, even remarkably honest, but thought it had misogynistic overtones. “I was a bit disappointed [the main female character] seemed to have such a low self-image.”

He hoped someone would make a similar film to explore male attitudes to their sexuality. “As I was watching it, at times I was thinking, `My god, this really ought to be compulsory viewing for all men to give them some sort of insight into issues that perhaps we don’t think about very often.”

And the explicitness was perfectly acceptable, he said. “I don’t see what all the fuss was about.”

From a porn film-maker’s perspective, how good was the sex? “It was a good deal more honest than most of the X-rated films that are out there,” Haines said. “Why do we draw this artificial line at seeing penetration or contact or male erections? It’s an absurd boundary to draw, particularly when you can have so many explicit depictions of female genitalia and sexuality in mainstream commercial films that are extremely exploitative in many cases, not to mention demeaning.”

The question is what effect the debate will have on the film’s Australian release. The 40 or so people who bought tickets to the premiere were clearly curious about the fuss. Many left disappointed.

– A case of post-coital ennui
smh.com.au

Okay in SA

Despite objections, the South Australian Classification Council refused to ban it in the state.

February 2000
The Council met on 22nd February 2000 to consider correspondence it had received concerning the film ROMANCE by Catherine Breillat, which, it is understood, will open in South Australia on 16th March 2000. This film has been classified R18+ by the Classification Review Board, after being refused classification initially by the Classification Board.

The Council noted that it had received a total of 8 complaints advocating that the film be refused classification in South Australia. It had received two communications advocating that the film retain its R18+ rating in South Australia. The Council noted that none of its correspondents claimed to have viewed the film, which has been released in some European countries, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and has also been exhibited at the Melbourne Film Festival, but that information about the film’s contentious content is widely available.

Arguments for refusal of classification

Concerns were expressed by complainants on the following lines:

1. Intending viewers will not realize the nature of the film if rated R and may be subjected to offensive material which they would not choose to view.

2. Unless the film is refused classification, it may be seen by children, for example, when it is released on videotape and can be hired and taken home for viewing.

3. The film violates community standards of decency.

4. The film exceeds the ‘R’ guidelines by depicting explicit sex and sexual violence.

Those who considered that the film should be refused classification would probably wish to argue that it is covered by the RC guidelines encompassing the depiction of matters of sex `in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults, to the extent that that they should be classified RC’.

Arguments for an R classification

Those advocating the retention of the R rating argued:

1. That adults who wish to view this type of material should not be legally prevented from doing so.

2. That the community is less concerned about depiction of sexual behaviour than about violence.

Those taking this view would probably adopt the argument of the Review Board to the effect that the guideline limiting R films to simulations only of sexual activity should treated as a general rule, to be read in the broader context of the provisions of s.11 of the Commonwealth Act, which provide that adults should be able to see what they choose and that the artistic merit of an item should be considered in classification.

Deliberations of Council

In order to determine whether it should take any action, the Council informed itself as far as possible about the film, noting that, according to the distributor, no copy of the film was available for viewing. The Council has power under s.16 of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 to classify an item of its own motion. The Act does not require that the Council receive a complaint or any set number of complaints before classifying, but leaves the matter to the Council.

The Council obtained the published reports of the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board, as well as some reviews of the film from jurisdictions where it had been released. The reasons of the Review Board contain descriptions of the contentious aspects of the film and both reports are annexed.

On considering these materials, it became clear to the Board that there is little doubt as to the content of the film, which would appear to include depictions of actual sexual acts of masturbation and fellatio. (It also contains an implied rape scene, although both the Board` and the Review Board took the view that such scenes fall within the R guidelines if not detailed, frequent, gratuitous or exploitative.) It appeared that the real issue in classifying the film was not the assessment of the impact of the content, or the nature and intent of the film, but rather the question whether such material could or could not be accommodated within the R category, having regard to the guidelines, the Code and the Act.

The Classification Board, consisting of 17 members, was understood to have divided on this question. The Review Board, consisting of 5 members, had also divided on this question, but reached the opposite result. Clearly, therefore, cogent arguments can be made for either conclusion.

Analysis of arguments

The Council went on to consider the arguments put forward to it.

a) Unwanted offensive material
As to adults being offended by seeing the film without adequate prior knowledge of its content, the Council did not consider that this was likely. The Review Board has attached a consumer warning that the film contains `High Level Sex Scenes’. The content of the film has been the subject of media discussion, and is disclosed in many reviews accessible in the print media and over the internet, as well as in the reports published by the Board and the Review Board. Hence, the Council considered that any intending viewer would readily be able to gain an indication of the film’s content and make an informed choice whether to view it.

b) Protection of children
As to the protection of children, the Council did not consider this issue to arise. It noted that there is no question of the film being classified as suitable for children. It is classified R18+ and no submission has been received suggesting that any lower classification would be appropriate. Children are not legally able to attend the exhibition of, or to hire, either R or RC films. Indeed the R category, under the terms of the Code, specifically designates material unsuitable for a minor to see. Hence, child protection issues do not arise in this context.

The Council noted the argument that if a film is classified R, it could be viewed by children through illegal hiring or through parents having it in the home. However, this is true of any R-rated film. It is the legal responsibility of exhibitors and hirers to ensure that the law is not broken and that R -rated films are not shown or hired to children. If they fail in this legal responsibility, they are liable to prosecution. It is for parents to exercise vigilance in the home to ensure that their children are protected from any adult or potentially disturbing material which parents may choose to have in their homes. The possibility that the law may be broken is not a proper consideration in classifying a film.

c) Public decency
The Council gave thought to the argument that the film offended against public decency. In this context, it noted that the film would only be viewed by those adults who made an informed choice to see it. No -one would be subjected to the material except by choice. It noted that the Code and the Guidelines, which are set following public consultation, are intended as a guide to public standards of decency. Hence, it considered that this argument really resolved itself into the question whether the film could be accommodated within the R guidelines, or not, i.e. that arguments 3 and 4 were in essence the same.

The Council noted that the material was of a kind which had not usually been included in R-rated films to date, and that the R guidelines provide, as a general rule, that actual sexual activity may not be shown, though simulation of such activity may be. Presumably, it is considered that actual events have a higher impact on the viewer than simulations. There was, as the Classification Board had determined, a valid argument that the depictions in this film could not be accommodated within the R category. Conversely, the view is open that they can, as set out in the Review Board’s reasons.

As the comments it has received would suggest, the Council considered that it was likely that some members of the South Australian community would subscribe to the argument that the R guidelines cannot accommodate this material, while other members would hold the opposite view. It is difficult to say that one view or the other is more likely to reflect a South Australian perspective. In any event, the Council noted that it is the intention of the cooperative scheme that the Guidelines are uniform throughout Australia. It is not intended that South Australia will develop its own unique interpretation of the Guidelines which is different from the national interpretation. Rather, it should apply the same Guidelines, but may take a different view of the content of a particular film, game or publication, having regard to local community standards.

Hence, usually, classification of a film by the Council entails an assessment of the content of the film against the Guidelines, that is, consideration of whether a depiction is high or low in impact, is discreet or emphasised, is realistic or stylised, whether material is gratuitous or integral, is detailed, whether a theme is disturbing, etc. This involves assessment of the way the film works and the impressions it may produce on local viewers. The impressions produced on viewers in one community may be different from those produced on viewers in another community. There is room for disagreement over which category best describes a film, without there being necessarily any disagreement over how the Guidelines should be interpreted.

In the present case, on the information presently available to the Council, there would seem to be little doubt that the contentious material is realistic, but is integral to the film. There would also seem to be little doubt that the film has serious artistic intention, being the work of an established director of arthouse films, and having been exhibited at several international film festivals. Rather, the question is one of the interpretation of the Act, the Code and the Guidelines. Two interpretations are open. It appeared to the Council that the arguments had been thoroughly considered by the Classification Board and the Review Board, and it doubted whether a further interpretation of the Guidelines would be helpful, and whether one could say that one argument or the other would prevail among South Australians. If, however, there is uncertainty over the meaning of the R or RC guidelines, this may appropriately be addressed by amendment.

The Council further noted that with an R18+ rating and the consumer advice attached by the Review Board, the film would likely be viewed only by those adults who made an informed choice to see such material, and there was no reason to think that those who chose not to see the material were at risk of being subjected to it.

Conclusion

For these reasons, the Council was not persuaded of any demonstrated need for it to exercise the power under s.16(1) to classify this film of its own motion for South Australia.

– South Australian Classification Council report

In 2005, they increased Michael Winterbottom’s 9 SONGS (2004), another film containing ‘actual sex’, from R18+ to X18+.

Australian release

On March 2, ROMANCE opened in Sydney at the Chauvel, Dendy Opera Quays, Walker Street and Cremorne Orpheum cinemas.

VHS release

In July 2000, a 98:32 (NTSC) uncut video was issued by Siren Entertainment.

Romance (1999) - Video Poster 1
Poster – Siren

The rear of the cover naturally promoted the controversy.

Romance (1999) - VHS videotape 1
VHS – Siren

July 3, 2000
ROMANCE was initially refused classification (ie Banned) in Australia by the Office of Film and Literature Classification for reasons of sexually explicit content contravening the general guidelines for an R rating. The decision has been overturned by the Classification Review Board who has applied the overriding principles that adults should have the right to see and hear what they wish.

– Siren VHS cover

Censored R4 DVD

In the UK, ROMANCE was passed uncut theatrically; however, the BBFC then demanded a nonsensical cut when it was issued on VHS.

Unfortunately, in June 2001, Madman Entertainment utilised this censored version for their first Australian DVD release.

Romance (1999) - DVD cover 1
DVD – Madman

Don reports.
Madman Entertainment (au) – DVD – 94:30 (PAL) – censored
Before – Man says, ‘As if crudeness is all one can expect’.
Censored at 81:41 by 00:01 – Man ejaculates onto a woman’s stomach.
After – Doctor squirts gel on Marie’s (Caroline Ducey) stomach as he performs an ultrasound. He says, ‘There, we see the head’.

Pay-TV screening

In June 2003, ROMANCE premiered on the World Movies channel.

It is unknown if this was the uncut or BBFC version that Madman had used for their DVD.

Uncut R4 DVD

In November 2005, a DVD of ROMANCE received an R18+ (High level sex scenes).

The applicant, Madman Entertainment, released it on disc. The cover used the colour-coded classification markings that had been introduced in May 2005. This identifying feature can be used to separate it from their previous censored DVD.

Romance (1999) - DVD cover 2
DVD – Madman

NPD reports.
Madman Entertainment (au) – DVD – 94:33 (PAL) – uncut
The running time was tested on both a PC and a DVD player. The restored ejaculation shot is only 00:01, so I do not know where the extra 00:02 came from as there is no Madman or other distributor’s banner. There is a shaky transition after the ejaculation shot, so maybe this was restored to the print that was used for the June 2001 DVD release.

Unhappy Christians

In 2011, an inquiry into the Australian classification system heard from a who’s who of pro-censorship groups such as Salt Shakers, Collective Shout, the Australian Christian Lobby and Family Voice Australia.

The committee made thirty recommendations and was heavily in favour of tighter restrictions. This included a ban on the X18+ rating and the implementation of the South Australian model where R18+ titles are sold separately. This was unsurprising as Guy Barnett (Liberal) was the Chair and Julian McGauran (Liberal) a participating member.

June 23, 2011
Distinction between R18+ films and X18+ films
5.19 A number of submissions referred to the classification of films with actual sexual activity in the R18+ category, despite the statement in the Guidelines that for R18+ films the ‘general rule’ is ‘simulation, yes – the real thing, no’.

5.20 In its submission, FamilyVoice Australia discussed this point at length, noting that the classification of films with actual sex as R18+ breaches a ‘clear dividing line’ between R18+ and X18+. FamilyVoice Australia outlined the history of decision making on this issue:

“In January 2000 a decision [was made by] the Classification Review Board to classify the film ROMANCE as R18+…The film contained several brief depictions of an erect penis, of fellatio and of a woman masturbating a man. As the Classification Board observed in its initial decision to classify the film as RC ‘the explicit depictions of sexual activity [had] not previously been permitted (other than in an educational context) in the ‘R’ classification’…The Board found that the sexually explicit depictions could have been accommodated in the X18+ classification but that other scenes of sexual violence prevented this.

In classifying ROMANCE as R18+ on appeal, the Classification Review Board opined that…’the “rule” [‘simulation, yes – the real thing no’] is expressed to be a general rule, implying the possibility of exceptions in a limited number of instances. After careful consideration the majority of the [Review] Board decided that the limited discretion implicit in the application of the rule should be exercised in this film’s favour.’…

Since this decision a number of films with explicit depictions of sexual acts have been classified as R18+.”

– Review of the National Classification Scheme: Achieving the right balance

1971 to 1999 – R-rated (Actual sex)

Before the ROMANCE decision, actual sexual activity in R-rated movies normally appeared in white-coaters or documentaries. Any additions are welcome.

Titles covered in Film Censorship Database No. 1 are followed by *.

1973

LANGUAGE OF LOVE (1969) *

1974

MORE ABOUT THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE (1970) *

SEXUAL FREEDOM IN DENMARK (1970) *

1982

NOT A LOVE STORY: A FILM ABOUT PORNOGRAPHY (1981)
Sex was said to be:
Frequency: Infrequent
Explicitness/Intensity: High
Purpose: Justified
…and also for ‘adult concepts’
Comment – This feminist anti-porn documentary features actual penetration during the live sex show footage of Patrice and Rick Lucas. It includes great archive footage of 42nd Street peep shows and sex stores where the filmmakers again take the opportunity to show hardcore. This time a loop featuring a blowjob and come shot is shown playing in a booth.

1983

SIGMUND FREUD’S DORA (1979) *

1985

SPETTERS (1980)
Sex was said to be:
Frequency: Frequent
Explicitness/Intensity: Low
Purpose: Gratuitous
Comment: This wasthe Pioneer Electronics laserdisc.
A VHS was passed in 1999 with consumer advice of ‘Adult themes, Medium level sex scenes’.
It is unclear if either of these were uncut.
The MGM DVD, released by Shock in May 2010, was complete but was not submitted for classification. It contains three explicit sex scenes.
56:00 – Fientje (Renée Soutendijk) plays with Rien’s (Hans van Tongeren) semi-erect penis (56:00), a real scene of homosexual fellatio (67:00) and a homosexual gang rape where an erection is shown (91:00).
Confirmation is required if these scenes were present in the R-rated laserdisc or VHS.

2000 to 2014 – R18+ (Actual sex)

The classification of ROMANCE allowed increased levels of sexual activity in the R18+ rating. The distributor, Potential Films, was the first to take advantage by submitting Nagisa Ôshima’s long-banned and censored IN THE REALM OF SENSES (1976).

Below is a list of films, in order of classification, that was passed in the first 15 years following the ROMANCE decision.

2000

IN THE REALM OF THE SENSES (1976) *
High level sex scenes, Medium level violence, Adult themes
Comment – Contains fellatio and penetration.

2001

INTIMACY (2001)
High level sex scenes
Comment – Contains fellatio.

2002

BAISE-MOI (2000) *
Consumer Advice: Strong sexual violence, High level violence, Actual sex, Adult themes
Comment – Contains penetration. R18+ to RC by Classification Review Board.

THE PIANO TEACHER (2001)
Consumer Advice: Adult themes, Actual sex
Comment – Contains fellatio.

2003

IN THE CUT (2003)
High level sex scenes, Medium level violence
Comment – Contains a fake, but graphic fellatio scene.

SEX AND LUCIA (2001)
High level sex scenes

2004

ANATOMY OF HELL (2004) *
Strong themes, Sexual activity, High level sex scenes.
Comment – Changed to ‘Actual sex, High level sex scenes, High level themes’ by Classification Review Board.

I STAND ALONE (1998)
Adult themes; High level violence; Sexual activity
Comment – Contains penetration.

2005

9 SONGS (2004) *
Actual sex, High level sex scenes.

A HISTORY OF SEX (2003)
Adult themes; Nudity; Sexual activity
Comment – Contains fellatio, a golden shower and explicit imagery.

INSIDE DEEP THROAT (2005)
Sexual activity, Sexual themes
Comment – Contains fellatio.

1900 (1976)
High level sex scenes, Adult themes
Comment – Contains the flaccid penis’ of Robert De Niro and Gerard Depardieu being masturbated by a prostitute. R-rated, January 1978 for theatrical (247:38) and May 1985 for Warner Video VHS (242-minutes). Confirmation is required if this scene was present theatrically or on the VHS.

THE IDIOTS (1998) *
High level themes, High level sex scenes
Comment – Contains penetration.

THE BROWN BUNNY (2003) *
Sexual activity, High level themes
Comment – Contains fellatio.

2006

LIE WITH ME (2005)
Sexual activity, High level sex scenes

THE GUERNICA TREE (1975)
High level violence, High level themes, Brief explicit sexual activity

SHORTBUS (2006)
High level sex scenes, Actual sexual activity
Comment – Contains fellatio, penetration and ejaculation.

2007

EX-DRUMMER (2007)
Coarse language and themes, High level sex scenes, violence and sexual violence

TAXIDERMIA (2006)
High level sexual activity, High level themes
Comment – Sex does not look real, but is quite graphic.

TAXI ZUM KLO (1980) *
High level sex scenes and sexual themes
Comment – According to the BBFC, there is ‘…unsimulated sexual activity which features explicit sight of masturbation, fellatio, anal penetration and ejaculation’ and an ‘…unsimulated scene of sexual fetish activity when a man urinates in the mouth of another man during sex’.

ANOTHER GAY MOVIE (2006)
High level sex scenes; Actual sexual activity

INDIE SEX/ CENSORED/ TEENS/ EXTREMES (2007)
Actual sexual activity

2008

DESTRICTED (2006)
Actual sexual activity, High level sexual themes
Comment – At the time it was passed, this was probably the most sexually explicit R18+ film. Larry Clark’s IMPALED segment would not be out of place in a hardcore film.

September 23, 2008
…the general rule does not prohibit the depictions of actual sexual activity at the R 18+ classification. Such depictions are only permitted at R 18+ if they are not gratuitous and are contextualised within a mature and serious work. The Board was of the opinion that the compilation of seven short films warrants this classification as the depictions of sexual activity are in the context of artists exploring their vision of sex in art and contemporary culture.

– Classification Board
– Annual Report, 2007 to 2008

BATTLE IN HEAVEN (2005)
High impact sex scenes and actual sexual activity
Comment – Contains fellatio.

OTTO; OR UP WITH DEAD PEOPLE (2008)
Contains actual sexual activity and horror violence
Comment – Contains fellatio and penetration.

IMPORT/EXPORT (2007)
High level sexual activity
Comment – Contains fellatio.

DAYS OF DEEP THROAT AND LINDA LOVELACE (2003)
Sexual activity
Comment – Contains fellatio. Extra on Umbrella Entertainment’s DVD of DEEP THROAT (1972). The actual film was the censored version.

THE STORY OF RICHARD O (2007)
High level sexual themes and actual sexual activity

RW FASSBINDER: THE GANGSTER FILMS
LOVE IS COLDER THAN DEATH (1969)
GODS OF THE PLAGUE (1970)
THE AMERICAN SOLDIER (1970)
Brief images of actual sexual activity
Comment – The consumer advice appears to refer to GODS OF THE PLAGUE (1970).

DOG DAYS (2001)
Actual sexual activity, High level violence
Comment – Contains fellatio and group sex.

2009

AMERICAN SWING (2008)
High level sexual themes, Brief scenes of actual sexual activity
Comment – Contains real sex, but nothing particularly explicit.

2010

ANTICHRIST (2009)
High impact violence and sexual activity
Comment – Contains penetration.

September 1, 2010
The sexual activity in the film was also found by the Classification Board to be high in viewing impact. The Board noted that the sexual activity is brief, contextualised by the narrative and falls outside that of X 18+ material ie, that which contains only sexually explicit material. As such, the Board was of the view that the sexual activity contained in the film can be accommodated at R 18+. In its decision report, the Board noted that some material classified at R 18+ may be offensive to sections of the adult community. Within the R 18+ classification category sexual activity may be realistically simulated. The majority of R 18+ ‘adult’ films that feature simulated sexual activity carry the consumer advice ‘Mainly concerned with sex’.

– Classification Board
– Annual Report, 2009 to 2010

TONY MANERO (2008)
High impact sex scenes and actual sexual activity
Comment- Contains a brief fellatio scene.

ENTER THE VOID (2009)
High impact sex scenes, themes and drug use
Comment – Contains fellatio and penetration.

ALL BOYS (2009)
High impact sex scenes
Comment – Contains a brief fellatio scene shown on a TV screen (36:00).

2011

HISTOIRE(S) DU CINEMA (1989 – 1999)
High impact themes and actual sexual activity
Comment – Confirmation is required as to which of the eight episodes contain the sexual activity.

ANO BISIESTO (2010) aka LEAP YEAR
High impact sexual themes and actual sexual activity
Comment – Contains a golden shower scene (61:00) and male masturbation (71:00).

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG (2009) *
High impact sexual themes, violence and actual sexual activity
Comment – Contains a golden shower scene, penetration and fellatio. The bestiality scene with the horse is fake.

Q (2011) aka DESIRE
High impact sex scenes, actual sexual activity and nudity

RAMMSTEIN – MADE IN GERMANY 1995-2011 THE VIDEOS
High impact sex scenes and nudity
Comment – The clip for PUSSY (2009) contains actual sex.

2013

RAMMSTEIN VIDEOS 1995-2012
High impact sex scenes and nudity
Comment – The clip for PUSSY (2009) contains actual sex.

STRANGER BY THE LAKE (2013)
Actual sexual activity
Comment – According to the BBFC, two scenes ‘…include brief detail of unsimulated masturbation, ejaculation and fellatio’.

EXPOSED (2013)
High impact sexualised nudity and actual sexual activity

PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER (2013)
Actual sexual activity
Comment – According to the BBFC, ‘…various naked couples take part in an orgy, engaging in unsimulated sex, including fellatio and rear entry penetration. There are occasional glimpses of penis shaft, but no clear sight of actual penetration’.

STARLET (2012)
Actual sexual activity
Comment – According to the BBFC, ‘…one scene [52:00] shows a porn film being made and features brief sight of unsimulated sexual activity, including cunnilingus, fellatio and vaginal penetration’.

2014

NYMPHOMANIAC VOL. I (2013)
NYMPHOMANIAC VOL. II (2013)
High impact sexual themes, actual sexual activity and nudity
Comment – According to the BBFC VOL. I has ‘…several scenes of strong sexual activity, some of which include brief images of unsimulated sex, including fellatio, cunnilingus and vaginal penetration. VOL. II has ‘…several scenes of strong sexual activity, including sight of unsimulated fellatio’.

August 8, 2014
In the Board’s view, the highest impact classifiable elements in the film were themes, sex and nudity. The themes included realistically depicted sexual practices such as sadomasochism within the context of a female sex addict exploring her sexuality. In addition, the film contained a number of sex scenes and brief depictions of explicit sexual activity. These depictions were contextualised by the languidly paced narrative, which focused particularly on the female protagonist’s fleeting sexual relationships but which, more broadly, examined her sexual addiction.

– Classification Board
– Annual Report, 2013-2014

WETLANDS (2013)
High impact themes, actual sexual activity and nudity

GANDU (2010)
Actual sexual activity
Comment – Rii Sen performs fellatio on Anubrata Basu.

PARADISE: FAITH (2012)
Actual sexual activity
Comment – Anna Maria (Maria Hofstätter) watches an orgy that contains real fellatio (39:00).

PARADISE: LOVE (2012)
Actual sexual activity and nudity
Comments – The most explicit scene takes place at the end where the group of naked women have hired a stripper. He dances around and touches their bodies with his penis.

KINK (2013)
Actual sexual activity, high impact sexual themes and nudity
Comments – Contains penetration with a dildo, erections, and bondage.

HOW TO LIVE FOREVER (2009)
Brief depictions of actual sexual activity

AND THEY CALL IT SUMMER (2012)
Actual sexual activity

AFTER PORN ENDS (2012)
Actual sexual activity

2000 to 2014 – RC (Actual sex)

Despite actual sex being allowed in the R18+ rating, this did not prevent some titles from being banned or censored. They include KEN PARK (2002) LA FURA DELS BAUS: XXX FILM ELEMENTS (2002) and CALIGULA (1980).

In the mid-2000s, Siren Visual had a number of Japanese hentai titles rated R18+ ratings with explicit hardcore sex. However, many were still precut or banned.

All are covered in Film Censorship Database No. 1.

Actual sex at MA15+

The Classification Board have passed still images of actual sex with MA15+ ratings.

CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY VANILLA (2013)
Strong violence, sex scenes, coarse language and nudity
Comment – According to the BBFC, ‘…a man is shown leafing through a pornographic magazine. There are brief shots of a couple of the pages showing images of real sex’.

THE HUNT (2012)
Strong themes, sex scenes and nudity
Comment – According to the BBFC, ‘…in one scene teenage boys look at a pornographic image…the image in question is only briefly seen and depicts a woman holding a man’s erect penis’.

Actual sex – R18+ vs. X18+

In 2000, it was common practice for X18+ titles to be released in censored R18+ (Mainly concerned with sex) versions. This allowed them to be rented from video stores in all states. The X18+ versions were available only by mail order from the ACT and NT.

The ROMANCE decision was seen by adult film distributors, such as Calvista, as a sign of double standards. Two attempts were made to test the boundaries of what was allowed at R18+. The first came in 2001, with DREAMQUEST (2000) being taken to the Classification Review Board. The second, and most significant, came in 2006 when VIVA EROTICA was challenged to the Federal Court. Both cases are covered in our Adult Film Censorship Database.


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