It offends, it bores ... but `Crash' won't corrupt you

I can , if I so desire, go and see films featuring lots of sex, and films full of excitingly shot car crashes. I cannot, though, go and see a film which features both.

David Cronenberg's film, Crash, based on JG Ballard's novel, has been ruled out-of-bounds for showing in West End cinemas. The decision made yesterday by Westminster City Council to impose an interim ban means that the film must now be considered by the British Board of Film classification later this year.

If I was to prepared to risk my life in the Channel tunnel, I could of course nip over to Paris and watch it. If the hysterical fears about Crash were well-founded, one would have thought that Paris is by now a place full of smouldering wrecked cars peopled with perverted Parisians copulating amongst the debris. This does not, however, appear to be the case.

Why? Perhaps because French citizens are less easily influenced than we are. Perhaps because they don't believe everything they see. Perhaps because they understand the difference between reality and fantasy. Perhaps because this film is meant to arouse the imagination rather than the libido.

In Britain, however, Crash has aroused indignation and incomprehension. Despite pleas on its behalf from prominent writers and artists, from Salman Rushdie to Mike Leigh, a dreadful literalism prevails. Without all this fuss, whipped up mostly by those who haven't seen the film, Cronenberg's movie would probably never have been big box office any way. Those of us who are Cronenberg fans have never expected his films to be an easy or particularly comfortable ride. We sat cross-legged through Dead Ringers which featured twin gynaecologists fashioning surgical instruments for "mutant women". A feel-good movie is the last thing we would ever expect of this man.

The subject of Ballard's novel, which he once eerily described as a kind of interior autobiography, is an exploration of sex and violence in entertainment culture and, as he explains, "the probably sinister effects they are having on the public imagination".

The novel, written more than 20 years ago, was "a cautionary tale," a prophetic vision of what happens when violence is eroticised, when ordinary people become obsessed with celebrity life and celebrity death. Crash takes our obsession with sex and cars to its logical and, yes, extreme, conclusion. Ballard, who realised he could write science fiction set in the English suburbs, is himself concerned about the level of violence in cinema, pointing out that Reservoir Dogs is far more likely to incite copycat behaviour than anything in Crash.

The Westminster councillors have bizarrely insisted that one of the lines that should be cut from the film is "Car crashes are fertilising not destructive". There, you have just read it, but you are not currently permitted to see an actor saying it, presumably on the grounds that you might be persuaded this was true.

Crash will offend, it will bore and it will fail in some eyes because after all the hype, it is not a film designed to titillate. Cronenberg, speaking the other day, told us that one of the most common complaints about the film was that the car crashes were not realistic enough. So used are we apparently to seeing them on screen in slow-motion, that his crashes were not exciting enough.

That is a definition of depravity if ever there was one and in essence is what the film is actually attempting to bring to the surface. Yet to ban this film one must assume it depraves and corrupts, that it may cause imitative behaviour. This is ludicrous and just because the censors cannot distinguish between reality and fiction how dare they assume we can't either.

Councillors ban film, page 9

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
(David Sandison)
newsHow living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Planner

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen withi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£13676.46 - £15864.28 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Re...

Recruitment Genius: Existing Customer Telephone Consultants

£13000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Every day they get another 1000...

Recruitment Genius: Contract Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of refrigeration, mechan...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor