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France bans Von Trier's 'Antichrist' over sex and violence

AFP , Wednesday 3 Feb 2016
Views: 1086
Views: 1086

A French court banned Lars von Trier's ultra-violent film "Antichrist" on Wednesday, nearly seven years after it won a major prize at the Cannes film festival.

It is the third time a traditionalist Catholic group has succeeded in persuading French judges to pull the film since it was first released in 2009.

The same group has also managed to have two other sexually explicit films temporarily withdrawn from French cinemas and DVD stores in the past year.

Gaspar Noe's erotic odyssey "Love" was banned by the courts in July and the permit for "Blue is the Warmest Colour", which won the top Palme d'Or prize at Cannes in 2013, was withdrawn in December over its lesbian scenes.

While "Love" has since been re-released with a new certificate allowing it to be viewed by audiences over 18 years of age, Abdellatif Kechiche's much-praised love story between two teenagers is still in legal limbo.

The Catholic group Promouvoir (Promote) argued that the extreme "unsimulated sex" and violence in Von Trier's "Antichrist" -- which had a 16 certificate -- made it unfit to be seen by minors.

An administrative appeals court in Paris agreed and ruled that the culture ministry had "made a mistake" in its original classification of the film.

The notoriously provocative Danish director, who revels in shocking both audiences and censors, admitted when the film was first shown that it was not for the faint-hearted.

Courts have previously withdrawn permits for the film in 2009 and again in 2016 only for the French culture ministry to ignore their objections and reissue its certificate.

"Antichrist" opens with a passionate sex scene between a couple played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, who are so absorbed in their love making they fail notice their toddler falling to his death from a window.

Driven mad with grief, the wife smashes her husband's testicles with a block of wood before drilling a hole in his leg after he passes out.

She later tries to bury him alive before taking a pair of scissors to her own genitals.

While Gainsbourg won best actress at Cannes for her performance as the deranged wife, the film divided critics.

The influential US critic Roger Ebert praised the film as "almost a documentary... that shows our fear that evil does exist in the world, that our fellow men are capable of limitless cruelty, and that it might lead to the obliteration of human hope".

But others were either horror-struck or accused Von Trier of trying to wind audiences up.

"I could only watch the film's impossibly grisly final 20 minutes through my fingers," The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw wrote, dismissing it as a "celluloid custard pie (that) has landed squarely in the faces of audiences and the opinion-forming classes everywhere".

The ban on the film means it cannot be shown in cinemas, on television or on French Internet streaming sites unless it gets a new 18 certificate.

Retailers and video stores are also barred from selling or renting DVDs of the film.

Promouvoir, led by a former far-right activist Andre Bonnet, has previously attempted to sue one of France's most acclaimed novelists Michel Houellebecq.

It claimed his novel "Platform" about sex tourism in Thailand, was likely to "corrupt minors".

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