France bans Lars von Trier's Antichrist after seven years

PARIS • A French court banned Lars von Trier's ultra-violent film Antichrist on Wednesday, with the Catholic group who brought the case also threatening to have Quentin Tarantino's new film pulled from cinemas.

The traditionalist group Promouvoir (Promote) said the American director's western, The Hateful Eight, had been "granted its certificate illegally".

It also threatened to take action against the French teen film Bang Gang, a hit at this year's Toronto film festival. Promouvoir argued that the extreme "unsimulated sex" 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. Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin is "examining the (court's) decision", her ministry said after the ruling.

The notoriously provocative Danish director, who revels in shocking both audiences and censors, admitted when the film was first shown that it is not for the faint-hearted. Courts have withdrawn permits for the film in 2009 and again this year only for the ministry to ignore their objections and reissue its certificate.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 that they fail to 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 late critic Roger Ebert praised it for showing "that our fellow men are capable of limitless cruelty, and that it might lead to the obliteration of human hope".

But The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw dismissed it as a "celluloid custard pie (that) has landed squarely in the faces of audiences".

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.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 05, 2016, with the headline 'France bans Lars von Trier's Antichrist after seven years'. Print Edition | Subscribe