Film Censorship: In a Glass Cage (1986)


 

 

 

 

In a Glass Cage

aka Tras El Cristal

Directed by Agustí Villaronga / 1986 / Spain / IMDb

In 1995 Queer Screen applied to the OFLC to show a 113m print of IN A GLASS CAGE at their upcoming Mardi Gras Film Festival.

The application was refused, and an appeal to the Film Board of Review produced the following response

 

5. Finding on Material Questions of Fact

5.1 The principal protagonists in this Spanish film (subtitled in English) are Klaus, an elderly ex-Nazi, formerly involved in experiments in a German wartime concentration camp, and a young man Angelo, a now grown-up victim of Klaus' child abuse and torture activities in the camp. Angelo who arrives to nurse Klaus (now permanently in an iron lung) reads out from and re-enacts, a number of incidents of child abuse recorded in Klaus' diaries from camp days. Over a period of time, Angelo kills Klaus' wife and lures local small boys to their deaths after abuse and torture. In an apparent descent into madness Angelo corrupts the daughter of the house, turns the house into a barbed wire fortress, removes Klaus from the iron lung causing him to suffocate, and completes his takeover of Klaus' identity by assuming his place in the iron lung.

5.2 A dominant theme is that of the physical and sexual abuse, torture and murder of young children. The film includes a number of scenes which involves the graphic portrayal of young boys in a manner likely to cause offence to reasonable adults.

The first of these scenes occurs with the opening shots of a naked an of badly beaten young boy hanging by his wrists. The [younger] Klaus, in a state of arousal, looks longingly at and moves to kiss the boy before killing him with blows from a length of timber.

In the second of these scenes (from about 75 minutes) Angelo, in a re-enactment from Klaus' diary, induces a young local boy to come to the sickroom. After donning an army greatcoat and belt he tells the boy to undress, ties him to a chair, gags him, and kills him with an injection in the chest. The boy chokes to death with the camera dwelling (in gratuitous fashion) on his bare chest and nipples, and on his agony.

A third scene (at about 90 minutes) shows Angelo enticing a young local choirboy to Klaus' room, forcing him to sing in terror, while Angelo bares the boys chest and fondles him and takes the boy's trousers off leaving him standing in his underpants. After caressing his head and face Angelo cuts his throat. This scene portrayed a relish in the physical contact with, and killing of, children. Near the end of the film, Angelo takes Klaus out of his iron lung and implicitly fellates him as Klaus gasps for breath. The scene is intercut with flashback shots of implied fellatio involving Klaus and Angelo as a small boy.

5.3 Most members of the Review Board took the view that the relishing of the sexual abuse and torture of children was also conveyed through numerous readings from Klaus' diaries. For example, dialogue which included 'never had such pleasure' (as the needle sinks into the boys chest) and expressions of pleasure derived from 'the panting of boys before dying' and ' the blue distended veins on his neck' was considered to relish the sexual abuse and torture of children.

6 Reasons for the Decision

6.1 The Review Board based its decision principally on the graphic scenes of, and unrelenting focus on, child physical and sexual abuse, torture and murder described in paragraph 5.2 above, and the tone of relish in both visuals and dialogue as described in paragraph 5.3 above. The Review Board is of the view that elements of gratuitousness and the relishing of child abuse and torture pervade the film and outweigh considerations of the film as a serious exploration of the problem of child sexual abuse and torture in Nazi concentration camps, and its consequences. In the Board's opinion these made the film 'indecent' within the meaning of Custom (Cinematograph Films) Regulations 13(1)(a).

6.2 In coming to this view, the Board also had regard to current community concern about child exploitation and abuse, and considered that the portrayals in the film fell within the proscriptions in all States and Territories against 'films which depict a person (whether engaged in sexual activity or otherwise) who is......under the age of 16 years in a manner that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult (see e.g. NSW Film and Computer Game Classification Act 1984 [Section 9(2)] and definitions). The Board is of the opinion that, when judged by current community standards and concern about child sexual abuse, the film would be considered to be offensive. The current Guidelines for the Classification of Films ,which require that films which depict child sexual abuse be refused classification, reflects these State and Territory laws.

6.3 Mr Mitchell, on behalf of the applicants, argued that

(a) the film would only be shown at the 1995 Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Film Festival:

(b) the film was well crafted and has been shown at a number of film festivals around the world since 1986. Mr Mitchell tendered evidence and letters of support in this regard: and that

(c) the film was a serious treatment of the consequences of Nazi child abuse and torture, and could be used to educate those who might not view paedophilia and sadism in the serious light that they deserved.

6.4 The film was considered by the Board to be well made, and to have as a major theme the horrific consequences of wartime Nazi child abuse on the young victims, rather than that of promoting such practices. However, in the Board's view, this is outweighed by the gratuitous elements of the film and the pervasive relishing of child abuse and torture. Further, the Board notes that the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations do not provide for the consideration of 'artistic or educational merit'.

6.5 The Board also noted that, as the film has been refused registration, it cannot be screened for public exhibition. There is therefore no provision for limited screening at the 1995 Mardi Gras Film Festival as proposed by the applicant.

7 Summary

The Review Board's decision is to confirm, under Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulation

OFLC and Film & Literature Board of Review
The Year in Review 1994-95

 

 

Queer Screen appeal to the Federal Court

With the RC-rating confirmed by the Review Board, Queer Screen then took their appeal to the Federal Court of Australia.

The application was dismissed in the case when the case was heard on February 24, 1995. Queer Screen was ordered to pay costs.

The full case can be found at Queer Screen Limited v the Chief Censor [1995] FCA 1089 (24 February 1995).

 

 

The Chief Censor on IN A GLASS CAGE

The OFLC clarified their position in the following that appeared in their 1994 to 1995 Year in Review.

 

Since the 1983 amendment to the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations whereby film festivals designated by the Attorney-General as "approved organisations" could hold "approved events", and import festival films without any censorship entry impediment, it had been widely assumed that such films were altogether free from censorship.

That this was an erroneous perception was demonstrated in January 1995 when the Chief Censor, acting in his capacity as Censor for New South Wales, declined to exempt the Spanish film Tras El Cristal - imported by the approved organisation Queer Screen Limited for showing at its approved event, the 1995 Mardi Gras Film Festival - from the classification requirements of the New South Wales Film and Computer Game Classification Act 1984 ("the Act").

This meant that the film could not be publicly exhibited in New South Wales unless classified; and classification was deemed inappropriate because the film was considered to breach prohibitions in the Act against depictions of child sexual abuse.

Queer Screen sought to challenge the Chief Censor's ruling in the Federal Court of Australia, arguing that he was obliged to exempt, under State laws, where he was empowered to do so, a film imported under Commonwealth laws by an approved organisation for an approved event.

The court rejected Queer Screen's argument, establishing that, while films may be imported without censorship interference by approved organisations holding approved events, they may still fail to run the gauntlet of State/Territory laws relating to the public exhibition of films.

Following this judgment, concerns were expressed by film festivals about the vulnerability of film festival films to censorship. These concerns were addressed by the Chief Censor in a letter published in the May 1995 issue of the magazine Filmnews. The text of the letter is reproduced below:

Your editorial headed "Banning Prompts Censorship Concerns" (Filmnews , Vol 25, No. I) contains several factual errors.

"The legislation", according to the editorial, "clearly states that once the Attorney-General has granted an organisation its 'approved' status, the Chief Censor shall exempt films from classification, fees and duties."

This is not correct; indeed, that proposition was rejected when Queer Screen, importers of Tras El Cristal, sought to advance it in proceedings before the Federal Court of Australia.

The relevant legislation operates at two levels, Commonwealth and State. The Commonwealth legislation does oblige the Chief Censor to grant an approved organisation permission to import films for an approved event without having them examined by the Film Censorship Board. However, the films cannot be legally exhibited in public unless classified or exempted from classification. These are State matters.

As Censor for New South Wales, I declined to exempt Tras El Cristal from the classification requirements of that State's legislation for reasons that appeared to me to be sound, viz. that it contravened provisions in that legislation against depictions of child sexual abuse.

I did not refuse to register the film for New South Wales as claimed in the editorial; refusal to register did occur, but under Commonwealth Customs legislation.

The editorial raises concerns about the operation of film festivals under the new Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act recently passed by the Federal Parliament

There are no grounds for such concerns. When the Act commences operation - expected to be some time in 1996 - and the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations are repealed, there will be no impediment to the importation of films other than the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations.

This will be administratively tidier and simpler and will significantly reduce the burden currently placed on film festivals of processing their events through the Office of Film and Literature Classification.

Their films, however, will still have to meet State and Territory requirements relating to public exhibition. In that sense the status quo remains unchanged.

John Dickie, Chief Censor

 

 

David Stratton on IN A GLASS CAGE

In his 2008 autobiography I PEED ON FELLINI, David Stratton describes the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival's attempts to show the film. Stratton was the former Director of the Sydney Film Festival, and had been a long time campaigner against film censorship in Australia.

Here he seems to be describing a previous attempt to screen the film in Australia in the late 80s. It may be possible that he is referring to the 1995 Queer Screen case.

 

After I had left the SFF, it became common practice for other organisations, apart from the Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals, to take advantage of the freedom from censorship privileges originally granted to us by Don Chipp. National film weeks proliferated, as did other film events - such as the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, held in conjunction with the Mardi Gras - and all of them applied to import films without having them subjected to commercial censorship or classification. The organisers of these events, however, sometimes seemed not to be aware of the privileges that we had been given.

In the late 1980s, the Gay and Lesbian festival imported a print of the 1986 Spanish film Tras el cristal (In a Glass Cage), by director Agustin Villaronga, which I had seen at the Berlin Film Festival that year. It was, as I noted at the time, a well-made and serious film but the subject matter (it dealt with a man who derived sexual pleasure from molesting and murdering young boys) was repellent. The Censorship Board demanded that the festival submit the film for censorship, and subsequently banned it. After this incident, even the Sydney Film Festival found itself again under threat.

 

 

Australian DVD banned in 2005

In late 2004 Siren Visual Entertainment announced that they would be releasing the film on DVD on March 25th 2005.

On February 8, 2005 it was again Refused Classification by the Classification Board.

 

 

Siren Visual challenge DVD ban

On March 1, 2005 the OFLC announced that Siren would be taking IN A GLASS CAGE to the Review Board in an attempt to get an R-rating.

 

Review announced for the film Tras el Cristal

The Classification Review Board has received an application to review the classification for the Spanish film, Tras el Cristal (In a Glass Cage), directed by Agustin Villaronga.

Tras el Cristal was refused classification by the Classification Board on 8 February 2005.

The Classification Review Board will meet on Wednesday 23 March 2005 to consider the application.

The Classification Review Board’s decision and reasons for its decision will appear on the OFLC website once the review has been finalised.

The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. Meeting in camera, it makes a fresh classification decision upon receipt of an application for review. The Classification Review Board decision takes the place of the original decision made by the Classification Board.

 

 

IN A GLASS CAGE ban confirmed by Review Board

The RC-rating decision of the Review Board was posted on the OFLC website on March 31, 2005.

 

NEWS RELEASE

Tras el Cristal refused classification upon review

A four-member panel of the Classification Review Board met on March 23 and 30, 2005, and determined, in a unanimous decision, that the Spanish film Tras el Cristal (In a Glass Cage), directed by Agustin Villaronga, should be refused classification.

A film that is refused classification (RC) is immediately banned throughout Australia. It cannot be exhibited, sold, hired or imported into the country. A film is refused classification if it exceeds the guidelines for the R18+ or X18+ classifications.

The Classification Review Board convened in response to an application by the film’s home entertainment distributor, Siren Visual Entertainment, to review the Refused Classification decision for Tras el Cristal, made by the Classification Board on February 8, 2005.

The Classification Review Board received written and heard oral submissions from the applicant, Mr Nigel Rennard, Managing Director of Siren Visual Entertainment.

Convenor, Maureen Shelley said “The film includes offensive and exploitative depictions involving boys who appear to be 6 to 12 years old. It includes the torture of young boys for the gratification of two men, in the context of implied fellatio and masturbation. On this basis Tras el Cristal exceeds the guidelines for the R18+ classification”.

In the Review Board’s opinion, Tras el Cristal warrants refused classification status because it includes the following depictions:

• a boy, who appears to be 6-8 years old, implicitly fellates an adult male

• a man implicitly masturbates, implicitly ejaculating on the face of a disabled man, while reciting passages from the disabled man’s journal detailing his pleasure in torturing young boys

• a visibly distressed boy of approximately 12 years, has his throat implicitly slashed after a man has forcibly stripped him to his underpants and run his hand over his torso

• the opening sequence depicts an 8-10 year old naked, semi-conscious boy. The child, who is bloodied and bruised, is hanging from the ceiling by his bound hands. He is caressed and photographed by an adult male who then, off-screen, strikes a fatal blow to the child

In reviewing the classification, the Classification Review Board worked within the framework of the National Classification Scheme, applying the provisions of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Films) Act 1995, the National Classification Code and the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games.

The Classification Review Board is an independent merits review body. It meets in camera to make a fresh decision when applications to review matters previously determined by the Classification Board are made. Its reasons for this decision will appear on the OFLC website when finalised.

 

 

IN A GLASS CAGE: Full Review Board Report

Australian Government
Classification Review Board
23, 29, & 30 March 2005
23-33 MARY STREET
SURRY HILLS, NSW

MEMBERS: Ms Maureen Shelley (Convenor)
Ms Dawn Grassick
Ms Meg Clancy (temporary member)
Ms Kathryn Smith

APPLICANT: Siren Visual Entertainment Pty Ltd (Siren), original applicant
for classification, represented by Mr Nigel Rennard (Managing Director, Siren).

INTERESTED PARTIES: None

BUSINESS: To review the Classification Board’s decision to classify the
film Tras El Cristal (In a Glass Cage) (the film) RC (refused
classification).

DECISION AND REASONS FOR DECISION

1. Decision
The Classification Review Board (the Review Board) unanimously classified the film RC (refused classification).

2. Legislative provisions
The Classification (Publications, Film and Computer Games) Act 1995 (the Act) governs the classification of films and the review of classification decisions. Section 9 of the Act provides that films are to be classified in accordance with the National Classification Code (the Code) and the classification guidelines.

Relevantly, the Code in paragraph 1 of the Table under the heading ‘Films’ provides that films that:

(a) depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, drug misuse or
addiction, crime, cruelty, violence or revolting or abhorrent phenomena in
such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that they should not be classified; or

(b) depict in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, a personwho is, or appears to be a child under 18 (whether the person is engaged in sexual activity or not).

are to be classified ‘RC’. The Code also states various principles for classifications, and that effect should be given, as far as possible, to these principles. Section 11 of the Classification Act requires that the matters to be taken into account in making a decision on the classification of a film include:

(a) the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults; and
(b) the literary, artistic or educational merit (if any) of the film; and
(c) the general character of the film, including whether it is of a medical, legal or scientific character; and
(d) the persons or class of persons to or amongst whom it is published or is intended or likely to be published.

Three essential principles underlie the use of the 2003 Guidelines for the
Classification of Films and Computer Games (the Guidelines), determined under s.12 of the Act:
• The importance of context
• The assessment of impact;
• And the six classifiable elements – themes, violence, sex, language, drug use and nudity.

3. Procedure
Three members of the Review Board viewed the film together on 23 March 2005. On that same day, four members of the Review Board met (three in the meeting room with the applicant present with the fourth joining by teleconference). The Review Board met in response to the receipt of a valid application from the applicant Siren. One member viewed the film on 29 March 2005. The same four members of the Review Board convened again on 30 March 2005 by teleconference.

The Review Board received oral submission from Mr Nigel Rennard representing the Applicant, which was confirmed in a written submission.

The Review Board then met in camera to consider the matter.

4. Evidence and other material taken into account
In reaching its decision the Review Board had regard to the following:

(i) Siren’s application for review;
(ii) Siren’s written and oral submissions;
(iii) The film;
(iv) The relevant provisions in the Act;
(v) The relevant provisions in the Code, as amended in accordance with s.6 of the Act
(vi) The Classification Board’s report; and
(vii) The Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games 2003.

5 Synopsis
Klaus, a former Nazi doctor responsible for the experimentation on children in concentration camps, is confined to an “iron lung” after a suicide attempt has left him paralysed. Angelo, now an adult who is one of Klaus’ concentration camp victims, takes employment as Klaus’ carer. Angelo begins reading excerpts from Klaus’ wartime diaries that document the torture and murder of children. These readings are heard in voice-over as Angelo implicitly masturbates in Klaus’ presence. Angelo captures young boys and tortures and murders them in a re-creation of Klaus’
experiments – Klaus condones these acts and they take place in his presence. The torture and killing of the children is linked to the men’s sexual pleasure. The film ends with Klaus’ young teenage daughter Rena assuming a boy’s dress and hairstyle and joining Angelo, who has moved into the “iron lung” after murdering Klaus.

6 Findings on material questions of fact
The Review Board found that the film Tras El Cristal contains aspects or scenes particularly worthy of mention under various classifiable elements:

(a) Themes – there are very high impact themes of torture and murder of children, mainly young boys of approximately four to 12 years of age. Whilst these are not justified by context, they are treated in a restrained manner. Also the theme of sexual predatoriness is explored. Whilst the treatment of this theme is restrained, the graphic depictions of violence and the intertwining of the sexual references and sexual scenes with these depictions ensures the theme has a very high impact.

Further, the theme of death and torture in concentration camps is explored.

At approximately 51 minutes Klaus’ daughter Rena, who is a girl of approximately 12 to 13 years of age, is shown very frightened in bed (this is after she hears the sounds that Angelo makes as he murders her mother). She gets out of bed and asks Angelo to sleep with her. Angelo takes Rena by the hand and takes her to her room. The scene has significant tension.

(b) Violence –At 1.00 minute the film opens with a scene depicting a young naked boy hanging by his arms from the ceiling. His wrists are bound. He has scratches, and some lacerations and bruises over his body, mainly his face, back and shoulders. He has blood and a laceration on his chest. He appears semi-conscious. His arms appear to be pulled out of their sockets. Klaus is shown photographing the boy and then approaches him. The child, who has blood on his face, opens his eyes and sees Klaus. Klaus places his mouth against the boy’s face, and then rubs the child’s face with his
own face. Klaus closes his eyes in apparent pleasure. Klaus then picks up a plank and implicitly (off screen) hits the boy. There are sounds of the beating and of the boy writhing. The boy’s feet are shown dangling and he now appears to have no animation. The scene is very high in impact.

At approximately 28 minutes Klaus’ wife Griselda is shown turning off the power to the “iron lung”. Klaus is shown screaming without sound. Griselda turns the power back on.

At 32 minutes Angelo reads to Klaus from the war-time journal. He reads “I had never bothered to watch those long agonies that could last five minutes” “The youngest (child) looked at me I closed the door.” Angelo is crying.

At 46 minutes Angelo puts a curtain over Griselda’s head. He puts a rope around her neck. She screams. She is shown struggling, He pulls the noose tighter around her neck and throws her over the balcony. She is shown hanging with one hand grappling for a firmer hold. Angelo kicks her hand away. She is suspended from the balcony by the noose. She is covered by the curtain. Angelo carries Griselda’s body and places it on top of the iron lung with the face toward Klaus. Angelo leaves the light on and says good night. Klaus can see Griselda’s distorted face.

At approximately 60 minutes Angelo is reading to Klaus from the war time journal. “Those children already knew death. The whole place smelled of death. Tiny bright eyes. He looked at me. I took him to the small room. I told him to take off his shirt. He obeyed me mechanically. I prepared the needle in front of him. I raised the needle. I sunk the needle into his chest. I sat down and watched his agony. I never felt such pleasure.” Flash backs of the war-time scene are shown with the boy eating an apple.

At approximately 70 minutes Angelo re-creates the scene with a boy he has captured. The scene takes place in front of Klaus in his “iron lung”. Angelo undresses the boy roughly. The boy’s little body is reflected in the angled mirror attached to Klaus’ “iron lung”. Angelo gets the needle. He ties the boy to the chair with a leather belt. Angelo inserts the needle into Klaus’ machine. He prepares the needle and approaches the boy.

At approximately 73 minutes Angelo plunges the needle into the
boy’s chest. The boy is shown gasping, his eyes roll back in his head. The boy “dies”, his face is blue and his eyes are wide, staring. The scene is very high in impact.

At 78 minutes a further scene takes place where Klaus’ war-time journals are recited whilst Angelo is watching a boy from a choir. “Watching the boy’s agonies. The pleasure death gave me. I felt very excited. The panting of the boy's dying. He had a beautiful voice. Fear made it more beautiful. The blue, distended veins on his neck”.

At 87 minutes Angelo brings the choir boy that he has been stalking to Klaus’ room. The boy is pleading “please let me go”. Angelo makes the choirboy sing to Klaus. The boy is crying while he is singing. Angelo undresses the boy down to his underpants. Angelo runs his hand down the boy’s torso and pulls out a knife. There is a sexual overtone to Angelo’s gesture. Klaus watches as Angelo implicitly kills the boy.

The juxtaposition of the reading from the journal, the verbal references to the sexual pleasure Klaus gained from the torture and killing of boys all go to making the impact of the subsequent killing of the choirboy very high in impact. Also the sexualised touching of the boy by Angelo before he kills him increases the impact of the scene.

Between 93 and 97 minutes Angelo kills Klaus by removing him from the “iron lung”. Rena is watching. There are flash backs during this scene to Klaus forcing Angelo as a child to perform implicit fellatio on him. The adult Angelo unbuttons his fly and pushes the disabled Klaus’ face into his groin. Klaus is gasping for breath. The child Angelo is shown with his face being pushed into Klaus’ groin area. The scene switches back and forth between war time and the present day.

At 100 minutes Angelo is dressed in Klaus’ pyjamas. Rena has combed her hair back and is dressed like a boy. Angelo is now in the iron lung. Rena has blood and scratches on her neck and face. She is sitting on top of the iron lung. She starts to remove her jumper. The film ends.

It was the unanimous view of the Review Board that the violence and sexualised violence contained in the film is not justified by its context.

(c) Sex – at approximately 35 minutes Angelo begins to take off his clothes. Angelo recites from memory passages from Klaus’ journal. “I didn’t want him to die”, which appears to be a comment from Klaus during war time about one of his victims. “Want a cigarette boy”, which appears to be a question from war-time Klaus to the child Angelo. “I wanted pleasure, I was naked” (Klaus). “She wanted to kill you” says Angelo to Klaus. “I grazed his neck to feel his fright” – Klaus in reference to the
opening scene. “I masturbated on his face, I saw his loathing”. These exchanges continue with Angelo – either in character as war-time Klaus or as himself in the current day. Angelo implicitly masturbates and at approximately 36.16 minutes wipes what appears to be semen from Klaus’ face.

(d) Language – there is no coarse language used in the film.

(e) Drug use – there is no drug use in the film.

(f) Nudity – the depiction of the naked boy in the opening scene was very high in impact. The later depictions of boys dressed only in underpants was high in impact given the context of the scenes.

The Review Board found that the overall impact of the material was very high. Scenes were dealt with in a realistic yet restrained manner. However, whilst they were not gratuitous they were nevertheless exploitative. The scenes of very high impact were not justified by the context in which they were presented nor by the theme of the film.

Further, the film did not have a satisfactory resolution. Although Karl is killed and therefore some “justice” is meted out, Angelo appears to be taking on his mantle, and Rena takes on the mantle of Angelo. In the end it appears that the violence and abuse of children will continue.

It is clear that this film has been made by a talented film maker with a serious intent of examining the issue of child abuse, torture and the treatment of people in concentration camps. This is not a film intended to titillate. However, the impact of the film is very high and the scenes involving children are offensive because they depict shocking scenes of torture and abuse of those children in a manner that is beyond what can be accommodated under the Australian classification system.

7 Reasons for the decision
The Review Board based its decision to refuse classification ‘RC’ for the film Tras El Cristal based on the content of the film as set out above.

Tras El Cristal is a serious film that confronts a range of complex and disturbing issues. Its treatment of those issues is generally restrained in manner. Clearly, the film has serious artistic intent and merit. However, the detailed and graphic depiction of the torture and murder of children for the sexual gratification of two men is depicted in such a way that the film is offensive to reasonable adults.

Whilst the disturbing scenes are not glamorised and it is clearly the film-maker’s intent that this torture and murder is not to be condoned, the material presented is beyond what can be classified under the Australian system.

The Review Board therefore found that the treatment of the very strong themes was not justified by context. The portrayals of children being tortured and killed in sexualised settings was also not justified by the context. Further, the Review Board found that the impact of the material was very high.

It was also not clear from the director’s commentary on the DVD whether some of the child actors were in actual pain during filming or not. The quality of the DVD supplied was such that this matter was unclear. However, regardless of any actual pain that the actors may, or may not have experienced, the film cannot be classified due to the very high impact of the depictions contained within the film.

The Review Board carefully considered the artistic nature of the film, its general character as a serious film exploring the issues of torture and abuse of children in a sexualised context and that any likely audience would be serious and educated film goers interested in art house cinema. However, the Review Board found that these matters did not outweigh the community’s concern over the depiction of people –
particularly children – in offensive circumstances. It was the Review Board’s determination that the depictions of cruelty and violence were such that they would offend reasonable adults.

8 Summary
The classifiable elements and the impact in the overall context of the film Tras El Cristal warrant a refused classification (RC). They depict, express and deal with matters of sex, cruelty and violence in such a way that they offend against the standards of decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults to the extent that the film should not be classified.

Further, the film depicts in a way that is likely to cause offence to a reasonable adult, persons who are, or appear to be children under 18. Some of these depictions involve children in a non-consensual sexual context. Other depictions relate to the torture and murder of children.

The decision of the Review Board was unanimous.

 

 

Australian Classification of Pedophilia Themes

Classification Board & Classification Review Board
Annual Report 2004-2005

Page 82
Classification Review Board
Depictions of children and paedophilia

A number of titles have been referred to the Classification Review Board that address the issue of paedophilia or depict children in a way to which some adults take exception (Anatomie de L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell), Palindromes, Tras El Cristal (In a Glass Cage)).

Films that have the issue of paedophilia or underage sex as a central theme, such as Palindromes and Tras El Cristal (In a Glass Cage), are challenging to classify. Yet there must be some way that society can examine and discuss issues of paedophilia and under-age sex via the medium of film. Also, the film Palindromes has abortion as a central theme. The depiction of a child, who appears to be 10 to 12-yearsold, reciting in a prayer the stages of underdevelopment, types of deformity or disability that aborted foetuses have, is a disturbing scene. However, the Classification Review Board unanimously concluded that this did not constitute an ‘offensive’ depiction of a child under the age of 18. Again, society needs to have some freedom to discuss and debate issues such as abortion through the medium of film.

In the film Anatomie de L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell), some sectors of the community were concerned by a simulated depiction of a child having the arm of a pair of spectacles inserted into her vagina and a group of boys laughing over the liquid that was apparent after removal. The Australian Family Association argued that this was child sex abuse and the film should have been refused classification. However, the Classification Review Board – taking into account that the scene was a simulated one in which the ‘child’ was a prosthetic dummy and the insertion of the object took place off camera – in a majority decision concluded that the scene wasn’t an ‘offensive’ depiction.

The Classification Review Board determined in the case of Anatomie de L’enfer (Anatomy of Hell) and Palindromes that the depictions – whilst some adults may take exception to some scenes – were acceptable. However, in the case of Tras El Cristal (In a Glass Cage) the Classification Review Board unanimously determined that the combination of sexual references and torture of children was such that the film should be refused classification. Of the three titles, it is my view as Convenor that Tras El Cristal (In a Glass Cage) had the most artistic merit and the highest production values. However, artistic merit alone is insufficient to ensure classification if the classifiable elements are such that the matter should be refused classification.

Maureen Shelly
Convenor

 

 

Pro-censorship groups and IN A GLASS CAGE

Classification Board & Classification Review Board
Annual Report 2004-2005

Page 91
Classification Review Board
Applications withdrawn

During the course of the year, the Classification Review Board received a number of applications that were later withdrawn. A determination is not made on withdrawn applications, yet a considerable amount of time is spent by the Convenor and the secretariat on these applications.

Table 22: Applications to the Classification Review Board withdrawn

Title: Tras El Cristal (In a Glass Cage)
Media: Film
Review applicant: 1) Young Media Australia 2) National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect
Reason for withdrawal: To avoid fees, applicants made submissions to the Review Board instead.

 

 

Complaints to the Censors

Classification Board & Classification Review Board
Annual Report 2004-2005

Page 39
Classification Board
Complaints

......... one complaint was received about the RC decision for the film Tras El Cristal (In a Glass Cage). These complaints addressed the decisions of both the Classification Board and the Classification Review Board.


 

 

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