January 31, 2012 / 5:08 PM / 7 years ago

UK film banned for blasphemy gets rating 23 years on

LONDON (Reuters) - “Visions of Ecstasy,” the only film to be banned in the UK on grounds of blasphemy, has been given an 18 rating more than 20 years after it was first submitted for classification.

The 19-minute short film directed by Nigel Wingrove features a sequence in which a figure representing St. Teresa of Avila “interacts sexually” with a figure representing the crucified Christ, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) said in a statement Tuesday.

A spokeswoman added that while only one film had been banned for blasphemy, numerous had been cut to remove the most offensive scenes.

Over the BBFC’s 99-year history, it has refused to classify nearly 1,000 works, although many of those dated to its early years and it now typically rejects only one or two works annually.

The decision to ban Visions of Ecstasy, which was submitted for video classification only in 1989, was made on the grounds that the film could constitute an offence under the common law test of blasphemous libel.

The ruling to refuse a classification, which became a cause celebre of the free speech movement, was subsequently upheld by the Video Appeals Committee.

In 2008, section 79 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act abolished the common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel, meaning that the film no longer breaches UK law, according to the BBFC.

The film classification body added: “The Board recognizes that the content of the film may be deeply offensive to some viewers.”

An 18 rating means no one younger than 18 can see the film in a cinema or rent or buy it on video. It is not known if or when Visions of Ecstasy will be on sale.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato

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