Visions Of Ecstasy(1989) A short movie ever banned in UK

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The only film ever banned in the UK on the grounds of blasphemy has finally been given a certificate, more than 20 years after it was made.

Short film Visions Of Ecstasy – which features Jesus being seduced on the cross – was originally refused a rating because it was thought to fall foul of blasphemy laws.

But now the British Board of Film Classification has finally given the 19-minute art house movie an 18 certificate.

visions of ecstacyThe late director Derek Jarman was among those who had defended the 1989 film in an effort to gain a certificate.

The decision – which became something of a cause celebre for anti-censorship campaigners – even reached the European Court Of Human Rights, but the film remained without a certificate until now.

Due to the rejection by the BBFC, the film – which featured music by Steve Severin of Siouxsie And The Banshees – has never been legally distributed in the UK.

The BBFC took legal advice which suggested the fantasy scene in which St Teresa of Avila sexually caresses the figure of Christ could be liable to prosecution for the common law offence of blasphemous libel.

But any cuts would have led to around half the film being removed so the classification was refused.

Director Nigel Wingrove took his case to the Video Appeals Committee, at which Mr Jarman gave his thoughts, but this was rejected.

And in 1996 the ECHR upheld the BBFC’s decision.

However in 2008, the offence was abolished by the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act which meant it could no longer be considered in the board’s deliberations.

In a statement today, the board said: ‘With the abolition of the offence of blasphemy, the board does not consider that the film is in breach of any other UK law that is currently in force.

‘Nor does the board regard the film as likely to cause harm to viewers in the terms envisioned by the Video Recordings Act.

But it added: ‘The board recognises that the content of the film may be deeply offensive to some viewers.

‘However, the board’s guidelines reflect the clear view of the public that adults should have the right to choose their own viewing, provided that the material in question is neither illegal nor harmful.

‘In the absence of any breach of UK law and the lack of any credible risk of harm, as opposed to mere offensiveness, the board has no sustainable grounds on which to refuse a classification to Visions Of Ecstasy in 2012.’

Mr Wingrove went on to set up his own film companies which specialised in erotic gothic horror.

He was also behind the Satanic Sluts, who counted among their models Georgina Baillie – the actress at the centre of the Sachsgate scandal.

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