Viewers shocked by Black Swan sex scene

BBFC annual report gives the low-down on complaints.

by Jennie Kermode

Black Swan was the most complained-about film of last year, according to the BBFC's annual report, which was released today. The regulator puts some of this down to thwarted expectations, saying some viewers expected to see a film about ballet rather than one about psychological disintegration. What caused the most upset was a sex scene between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, which some complainants felt was pornographic in nature. The BBFC have argued that it is well within their usual boundaries for a 15 certificate, and have resisted calls to rate gay sex scenes differently. They have also noted that 40 complaints from an estimated 2.7 million viewers is statistically minor.

Also high in the complaint stakes was Twilight - Breaking Dawn - Part 1, with viewers disturbed by an emergency caesarean section carried out on the heroine. The film has a 12A certificate but the BBFC have argued that most of the suffering in the scene is implied rather than shown directly, with only a small amount of blood and gore. Hanna attracted complaints for gratuitous violence featuring a child (its heroine is a genetically engineered super-soldier) and Sucker Punch was challenged for the sexual suggestiveness involved in the presentation of its young female characters, especially in a scene where one of them is forced to work in a brothel.

Several complaints were raised about the low certificates awarded to films like Bridesmaids and The Hangover Part II which feature gross-out humour. The BBFC also received irate letters about a supposed film version of the play Corpus Christi: Playing With Redemption, which depicts Jesus Christ and his disciples as gay men, although this film has previously been exposed as a hoax.

Physical safety was a concern for some viewers, with reports of epileptic seizures suffered by some viewers of Breaking Dawn. As a result, the BBFC has pledged to add a specific warning to all new films where this could be a risk.

Share this with others on...

An inconvenient woman Tanya Wexler on Buffaloed and a heroine who doesn't apologise

The fashion historian Mark Bozek on The Times Of Bill Cunningham

Huppert on a perpetual erotic charge Ira Sachs on working with France’s ultimate diva

Binoche out of her comfort zone Director Safy Nebbou on delivering the gift of a role

Eugene Hernandez appointed Director of New York Film Festival Dennis Lim named Director of Programming

Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President to open Tribeca Mary Wharton film lined up for 19th edition

César awards furore over Polanski Academy board resign as ceremony looms

More news and features

We're looking forward to the Berlinale, Scottish feminist festival Femspectives and the Glasgow Film Festival.

We've recently been at Sundance in Utah, Palm Springs, the French Film Festival and Tallinn Black Nights, Welsh horror spectacular Abertoir, the London Korean Film Festival and DOC NYC and the Valencia Film Festival.

Read our full for more.

Visit our festivals section.


Win a copy of Clockwise in our latest competition.