At 8:45pm on the 22nd September a group of adults sat down in a cinema to watch The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence). The occasion was the world première of the film at the opening of Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. The world première should have been earlier this year in the United Kingdom, the country in which the film was made.
The British Board of Film Classification interfered though, rejecting the film, denying the film a classification and effectively banning it.
Adults in the UK will not be able to choose to watch the film (appeal pending) as the BBFC believe it “would be unacceptable to the public”, claiming that the film “poses a real, as opposed to a fanciful, risk that harm is likely to be caused to potential viewers.”
I was lucky enough to sit down and speak to Tom Six recently and our discussion was naturally dominated by the rejection of his film by the BBFC. Read on to find out what Tom Six had to say on the matter.
You filmed The Human Centipede 2 in the UK. How did you find working here?
I am so proud of English actors. I think they so tough, they are way braver than Dutch actors. British actors are real troopers and don’t complain at all. I had a lovely crew too, all British.
It might not be seen in the place that you made it in though.
It’s so sad. I’ve got such mixed emotions about that. First I want to applaud them for banning it because it gives the film so much attention, as you can imagine, it’s out there with the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. They only ban so few films.
At the same time, I think now is enough. I’m really upset that grown ups can’t watch a film for themselves. Who are they to decide that, it’s crazy. Especially when the film has a lot of dark humour in it. For the UK, who gave the world Monty Python and Little Britain, with all that dark humour. I am really disgusted by the lack of humour by the people from the BBFC.
The distributor are appealing but it doesn’t look good. They’re fighting hard. We come with very good arguments to persuade them to see it differently, now it’s up to the courts to decide. Because the BBFC won’t allow it.
What if they did agree for it to be released it, but cut?
Of course as a filmmaker you hate it. You hate it when they cut your film because it’s cut in a certain way.
You’ve finished it.
Yeah, exactly. Everything is meant to be in there, for the story. It’s crazy if someone cuts pieces out. The best experience is when you see it the way it is made. So the distributor are fighting to get it uncut. But they [the BBFC] say cuts won’t even help. Serbian Film, they cut loads out, but it’s still out there.
The BBFC synopsis seems to give away an unnecessary amount of information about what happens in the film.
Yeah, I’m really angry about that. How could they?!
They gave away the basic story, only they didn’t present the story in the right way. They say that the main theme is that the guy is sexually obsessed but it’s not true. He’s obsessed by making a Human Centipede. They lifted out all the elements that they were really disturbed by. People will see that they disagree with the story that the BBFC put out.
So, it’s about someone who watches the Human Centipede film and then wants to create something along those lines…
Exactly. That’s the basic story.
So this is in a world in which The Human Centipede is a film?
And you found that an interesting idea to pursue I presume?
Definitely. I like that idea very much because you can do another doctor but… I like the idea of reality and non-reality, you can mix that up. It’s really disturbing.
It makes it more real. But also that scene they [the BBFC] talked about where the guy rapes the human centipede, it’s so grotesque, so over the top, it almost makes it unrealistic. Of course it happens but it’s so far away from reality. I think it’s very strange that the BBFC would say that this film could set people up to copy the idea and make their own human centipedes.
For me Harry Potter is way more bannable because all the children watch it. Maybe a child jumps off a building with a broom, he thinks he can fly. That’s way more realistic than a guy copying this and making a twelve person human centipede.
How would you feel if there was a copycat or someone did do something that was influenced by the film?
It would be great marketing [laughs].
I think then that the person that does that is very disturbed himself, whatever film he watches… He watches Hostel, he takes his toolbox… Some people are influenced by Disney films maybe.
The BBFC has suggested that this film is illegal and potentially harmful.
That’s total bullshit because the film is not obscene. We have a lawyer who said that the film is not obscene and not against the law. If you watch Antichrist, it’s on the same level as that.
There’s nothing with children or real life pornography or animals getting hurt. There’s nothing in there that could harm you. I don’t understand that at all.
How do you feel about the blurring line between censorship and classification?
They should really stick to classification.
And is that something you support?
Oh definitely. Children must not see The Human Centipede, kids are vulnerable.
David Cook seems to suggest that this risk is part of their reasoning.
Yeah, I think the BBFC is from the dinosaur era because nowadays we have the internet and illegal downloads. People can see everything. Small children can see a massacre in Rwanda, for real, on the internet. That’s way more disturbing than watching a film. They can see live executions, children can see everything.
Do you agree with any kind of censorship in film?
No, I don’t. Not at all. All that cutting bullshit, I don’t understand it. You are paying to see a movie… You read what the story is about and you’re a grown up, you make the choice yourself. Films are art in a way, it’s not real and the cutting stuff I don’t believe in. It’s your own choice to watch it, if you don’t like it then don’t watch it… If you see something on television that you don’t like you just turn it off. You can choose. You are not tied to a chair with your eyes held open…
There is a strong chance of course that the appeal is going to be unsuccessful.
It makes me so pissed off… I can’t believe that it could actually be illegal to show it. I can’t. I won’t do it but as a filmmaker I am so obsessed by it that I want to rent a cinema… get arrested. Go off in handcuffs. Sit in a police station and say, what the fuck is this? Why?… and they would probably agree with me. I’m sure. They’d want to see it to… [effects a hushed voice] “do you have a copy of it?”.
What about the “risk of harm” to those at the BBFC that watched it?
Yeah, exactly. Maybe they liked it very much, they had to see it three times to judge it [laughs]. I don’t know if they really did, maybe they did.
They focus on the sexual aspect in their report, it sounds as if you think that perhaps they could be projecting this onto it?
Oh definitely. Audiences will be able to see it, the sexual thing is way over-rated. It’s not a guy who is sexually obsessed by The Human Centipede, it’s a guy that is obsessed by making a human centipede. That’s it. They see the film in a way that’s not there.
There are sexual scenes there though, right?
Sure, but it’s so short and if people watch the story they understand why. People ask me, why didn’t Dr. Heiter fuck the human centipede? A lot of people do. And I say, this guy is not sexual at all, he is a scientist and he doesn’t like sex because he doesn’t like human beings at all. This guy, if he sees a beautiful woman attached and he sees her from behind all the time, nine out of ten men would think of that. I’m sure. And so does the man in part two.
He is a man who is a little bit, how do you say… autistic. He lives in his own world. He has created his own world. People say that the character in part two is even scarier than Dr. Heiter. That’s for people to decide of course. They say it’s going to be an iconic character as well because the guy who plays him is brilliant. But they [Heiter and Martin] couldn’t be more opposite, it’s not possible. Because I didn’t want to do that, a guy that is just like Dr. Heiter. No, he’s in another space totally.
Do you think there will continue to be a gradual shift with censorship and the BBFC towards more permissiveness?
I hope so but now when the film opens worldwide and lot of people will illegally download it. That is really bad for us because we don’t have a lot of money so we have to get our money back. That’s why I really think the BBFC is supporting illegal downloading when they totally ban it. Because the whole of the UK will see the film, from importing it or from the internet. So it’s really pointless what they’re doing. But they’re really promoting illegal downloading.
…They know that despite what they’re doing people will see it other ways. They can’t stop UK people from seeing it, of course. And that’s very harmful for the industry what they are doing. If they [the distributor] can’t get a certificate, they can’t distribute it on DVD. They can’t release it on DVD because no party will take it without certification. It’s very harmful to a filmmaker.
What was your initial reaction to the news of the rejection from the BBFC?
First I was very happy because the publicity is enormous. Now I’m very upset and angry. Now the fun is over and I want to show people the film. We’re fighting our asses off. Hopefully it can be only a few weeks after America.
In the States of course you can release it cut but then put it out unrated on DVD and Blu-ray. Do you think that’s a better way of doing things?
Oh, definitely. They are very strange because you can’t say fuck on television but they can release this unrated. It’s a really weird world I don’t understand at all.
I think in America they will release two versions. Definitely, that’s unstoppable. As long as my real version is out there I’m satisfied. I won’t cry in my bedroom at night.
It’s really strange to cut things out. I made a rhythm. You really think of your scenes of course. Everything I wanted I kept in. It’s totally my vision, my ideas. I never censor myself at all. I put it all in.
The Human Centipede 2 [Full Sequence] is released in US cinemas on the 7th of October. If you live in the UK then you’ll have to wait a little longer for a chance to see it.