Posing a serious threat to directors’ creativities, censorship is an issue that has followed film for as long as its existence. This can cause some filmmakers to buckle under pressure and soften their vision in order to keep audiences and producers happy. However, not all auteurs follow this route, preferring to stay true to their craft and push boundaries on the big screen. Here, we’ve rounded up five controversial movies that caused serious commotion upon their release.
Vera Chytilová’s colourful new-wave film illustrates two bored teenage girls (both named Marie) who’ve decided the world has turned bad and so they will do the same. The film proceeds with the girls breaking from expectation to embark on endless antics of hustling men into free meals and drinking themselves into a stupor. The psychedelic visuals playfully match the personalities of the girls, who continue on a journey with no clear purpose. Officially banned by the Czech government for its food waste, it is rumoured that the real reasons for censorship lie in the film’s depictions of female sexuality as well as its anarchistic overtones.
Pink Flamingos (1972)
In John Waters’ camp classic, Divine defends her title as the “Filthiest Person Alive” and the film ensures to maintain that promise. Waters melds disgust and camp, creating a film so theatrically grotesque and frivolously crude. This delightfully absurd “exercise in poor taste” confronted middle class morality before the internet could.
Hail Mary (1985)
Banned internationally and denounced by the pope, Hail Mary is unexpectedly calm. Jean-Luc Godard’s modern reimagining of the virgin birth follows the chaste teen Mary as she navigates her faith, relationships and pregnancy. Protested for its female nudity and confrontation of Christianity with repeating questions like, “Does the soul have a body?” the tranquil cinematography sets the mood for a genuine investigation into spirituality in and outside the rigid rules of religion.
Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical film was protested by the Iranian and Lebanese government and caused an uproar in Tunisia – in part for its representation of God as well as its depiction of the Islamic Revolution. Viewed by her homeland as anti-Islamic content, Satrapi’s animated characters are incredibly human. The film follows her through war, first love, self-loathing and many new beginnings. Persepolis begins as what appears to be a coming-of-age story in turbulent times and persists onto the trials of adulthood.
The Neon Demon (2016)
Booed at Cannes, Nicolas Winding Refn’s divisive thriller offers a grim look at Hollywood. The protagonist is 16-year old, doe-eyed girl named Jesse, who begins the film as an aspiring model. Her innocence is not-so-subtly fetishised and grants her rapid success, turning her into a threat to the other, older it-girls, leading to disastrous consequences. The Neon Demon is visually stunning and is paired successfully with an eerie electronic score. Ultimately, it is up to viewers to decide if the ridiculous plot and hyper-stylised film actually critiques, or merely perpetuates, a youth-obsessed culture. In any case, it’s worth watching if you like to see beautiful people doing revolting things.