Sexually explicit '9 songs' is passed by film censor

The Irish film censor, Mr John Kelleher, has passed the sexually explicit new British film by Michael Winterbottom, 9 Songs, …

The Irish film censor, Mr John Kelleher, has passed the sexually explicit new British film by Michael Winterbottom, 9 Songs, uncut and with an 18 certificate for cinema release in Ireland.

When it was first screened at the Cannes Film Festival in May, the film generated a great deal of media interest. Such was the demand for seats that dozens of journalists had to be turned away.

Mr Kelleher first viewed the film at his Harcourt Terrace screening room in Dublin when it was submitted to him last month, and he saw it a second time earlier this month before deciding to pass it without cuts for audiences aged 18 and over.

Contacted yesterday by The Irish Times, he declined to discuss his decision beyond confirming those facts. However, the British Board of Film Classification issued a statement yesterday, after it also passed 9 Songs uncut.


"The film portrays the development of a relationship between two people, and includes a number of scenes of explicit, real, sexual activity," the statement notes. "Some people may find such explicit images shocking or unexpected in a cinema film."

It adds: "The board has concluded in this case that adults should be free to choose whether or not to see the film. The film does not raise issues of harm or sexual violence."

9 Songs was made by Michael Winterbottom, the English director of Jude, Wonderland, Welcome to Sarajevo, In This World and the controversial Dublin-set TV series, Family, written by Roddy Doyle.

As one who gained admission to a Cannes screening of 9 Songs, I have no doubt that it is the most sexually graphic film ever to be passed with a certificate from the Irish censor.

There are nine songs in 9 Songs, the first performed at the Brixton Academy in London, the meeting place for a young Englishman and an American woman who become involved in a passionate sexual relationship. Subsequent concert performances are intercut with footage in which it is clear that none of the sex scenes has been simulated.

Winterbottom throws out the conventions of narrative cinema to concentrate on those elements rarely depicted with any candour in films made outside of pornography - what usually happens off-screen when characters get deeply sexually involved with each other.

There are close-ups of penetration, cunnilingus, fellatio and ejaculation as the two actors immerse themselves in the heat and passion of the characters they portray.

The lovers are played by an inexperienced actress using the pseudonym Margo Stilley, and an English actor from an Irish background, Kieran O'Brien, who had a recurring role as Mark Fitzgerald, the son of the Robbie Coltrane character in Cracker, and also featured in Winterbottom's film, 24 Hour Party People.

The dialogue is minimal in a provocative film more intent in dwelling on the intimacy of a sexual relationship in all its detail.

An Irish release date has yet to be scheduled for 9 Songs.