London film festival breaks sex taboo

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The Independent Online
FILM buffs will have the dubious honour of witnessing the first erect penis in the history of British mainstream cinema when the Danish film The Idiots is shown at the London Film Festival next month.

Explicit sexual intercourse is also seen in the Lars Von Trier film, which the festival is to premiere at the National Film Theatre. A sell-out audience is expected for this latest work by a director whose last film, Breaking the Waves, won a string of awards and was critically acclaimed around the world.

The sex acts shown in The Idiots are proscribed by the British Board of Film Classification. According to BBFC guidelines, The Idiots would only be classified an R18, a special category for soft-porn films, usually found only in Soho sex shops.

A BBFC spokeswoman said The Idiots had not been submitted for a classification. Film festivals exist in a legal loophole which allows them to preview films without presenting them to the BBFC, which has the power to order cuts and, in exceptional cases, to refuse a general viewing certificate.

An NFT spokeswoman said the board's 18 certificate would be informally applied by the management to the audience attending The Idiots. "We make special arrangements for particularly sensitive films," she said. "A member of staff will be in the foyer keeping an eye on the audience. If someone appears to be on the age borderline they will be asked to show identification." The cat torture film, Gummo, the most controversial screening of last year's festival, was "policed" in the same way, she said.

Audiences across the country may also have a chance to view the controversial film: at the recent festival launch, an eight-city tour of Britain by the event was announced, and The Idiots could be included.

The Idiots was first shown at the Cannes Film Festival and was shortlisted for the prestigious Palme d'Or. The unprecedented sex scenes are part of a story that also deals with physical and mental handicap. Von Trier said: "The film contains a danger because it juggles with the concept of normality, with the way we ought to and ought not to behave."

The London Film Festival opens on 5 November with a British film, Little Voice.