It is rarely that I go to my local cinema, for the films shown there are
generally atrocious. However, I let myself be persuaded to go last
night by my neighbours, though the film turned out to be just as
atrocious as I had feared, shallow, sentimental, narcissistic, kitsch
and boring. My neighbours gamely agreed; but at least we had all
reached the age of reduced entry price.
Before the film started, there was a notice from the British Board of
Film Classification (not Censors, of course) to the effect that the film
we were about to see, suitable for 12 year olds and over, contained
scenes of moderate violence and injury and, horror of horrors, of
smoking. I guffawed: not only could I not stop myself, I considered it
my public duty to do so.
Was it not typical of modern official organisations that the BBFC
fastened on precisely those aspects of the thing under its purview, in
this case a film, that could not justifiably be criticised?
Unlike so many modern films, this one had no scenes of gratuitous
violence, and such bloody scenes as it contained were not in the
slightest titillating, but on the contrary appropriately off-putting. No
person who was not already deeply disturbed would have been
attracted by or provoked to inflict such injuries on others.
As to the horrific scenes of smoking, they were historically accurate.
The film was an historical drama, and the smoking was almost the
only aspect of the depiction of past times that was accurate. In those
days, three quarters of adults smoked; armies marched no so much
on their stomachs as on their fags. Not to have depicted men
smoking would have been an historical travesty.
Oh, but I can hear the weaselly words of the BBFC in my mind’s ear
even as I write. Children who see smoking in films or on television
are likely to take the habit up; the earlier they take it up the more
likely they are to continue it for the rest of their lives; and that
smoking remains, despite everything, the most important cause of
premature death in the country.
But would any parent who had gone to the cinema with his
adolescent child have removed him from it on seeing the BBFC’s
warning in order to protect him from the noxious sight? I rather doubt
it. The BBFC was merely adding its drop to the ocean of treacly
sentiment, supposedly virtuous, through which we now must wade.