After 33 years, censor lets Irish audiences see banned 'Ulysses' film

Jane Robins,Media Correspondent
Thursday 28 September 2000 00:00

A film of James Joyce's Ulysses has been cleared for release in Irish cinemas 33 years after it was banned for being "subversive to public morality".

A film of James Joyce's Ulysses has been cleared for release in Irish cinemas 33 years after it was banned for being "subversive to public morality".

The film, made in 1967 by the American director Joseph Strick, starred Milo O' Shea as the advertising salesman Leopold Bloom and Barbara Jefford as his wife, Molly. It is faithful to the book - a modernist transposition of Homer's Odyssey to the streets of 20th- century Dublin - which contains earthy language and the salacious musings of the adulterous Molly.

The novel was never prohibited in Ireland but the film censor banned the celluloid adaptation when it was originally submitted and again in 1975. Ulysses is considered an Irish classic but the 33-year film ban is the longest in Irish film history.

Last year Sheamus Smith, Ireland's present censor, passed Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange for release in the Republic 26 years after it was released.

Mr Smith said the Ulysses film had been brought to him by a new distributor hoping for a cinema release. He had allocated it a "15" certificate, meaning that it had been passed fit for viewing by those aged 15 and over.

Mr Strick told The Irish Times that he found the ban humiliating: "I shot the book with absolute fidelity to the novel. There isn't a word in the film that isn't taken from the book." Only when he recently revisited Ireland for the first time in 25 years and found how much the country had changed did he decide to ask the censor to reconsider.

A new film of the novel is also under consideration, with Stephen Rea as Bloom and Angeline Ball as Molly.

In Britain the book was censored when published in 1922. On that occasion Sir Archibald Bodkin, director of public prosecutions, banned it after reading 42 of its 732 pages, concluding that, although he could not make "head nor tail" of the book, it contained "unmitigated filth and obscenity". The British ban remained in place until 1936.

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