One aspect of the film that has, perhaps surprisingly, been in the news recently though is the film’s use of language. In particular, a handful of scenes that feature swearing. This swearing is used as part of the therapy that helps with King George VI’s stammer.
On the 15th of October this led to the BBFC classifying the film as a ’15’. This was a decision that the distributor’s were clearly unhappy with and formally appealed. Today the BBFC have done something of a U-turn and have announced that the film has now been re-classified as a ’12A’ with the slightly odd sounding consumer advice, “Contains strong language in a speech therapy context”.
After careful consideration by the President and Director of the BBFC, the Board took the view that the way the strong language is presented in The King’s Speech did not contravene the language Guidelines at ‘12A’ and that the public would understand why the Board has reached this decision.
Although it would appear that he was not aware that the appeal had been successful the film’s director spoke about the classification at The King’s Speech press conference this morning,
My head is in my hands about it. I go to see Salt,where a tube is force fed down Angelina Jolie’s throat and water poured down her throat to simulate drowning. That’s not a problem. The Daniel Craig scene in the last Bond where his bollocks are smashed in through a chair with no bottom. Another torture scene, that doesn’t get a 15. This extraordinary division we make between language and violence and sex and violence I find hugely disturbing. These are scenes that still in my head that I don’t want in my head.
The context of the swear words is a) This was done in the 1940s, we’re now in 2010. b) It’s therapeutic. c) It’s not being used to describe anyone, it’s not being used in it’s sexual meaning and it’s funny. I’m bemused by it.
Nigel Cole’s Made In Dagenham also recently received a ’15’ certificate for its use of swear words but this classification remained. With these recent examples and the effective banning of A Serbian Film and the recent heavy cuts to both the original and remake of I Spit On Your Grave, the BBFC appears to be sliding back from what appeared to be a more relaxed position.
As Martin Barker comments on in Jake West’s excellent documentary, Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape, the dark times of the Video Nasties censorship frenzy could easily return and it is important to be mindful of the work of the BBFC.