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Thursday, 8 February, 2001, 10:38 GMT
Hannibal sparks censorship row
Julianne Moore and Sir Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal
Julianne Moore gets in touch with Hannibal's dark side
The film Hannibal, sequel to The Silence of The Lambs, has sparked a censorship row in Australia before it has opened.

The film, which features Anthony Hopkins as a cannibalistic serial killer has been rated MA by the country's Office of Film and Literature Classification, allowing accompanied children under 15 to see it.


So nauseating I blinked in disbelief before walking out of the cinema

Lynden Barber, critic

One of the country's most prominent film critics has joined a parents' group to demand Australian film censors are tougher on violence in films.

The Sydney Morning Herald critic Lynden Barber said: "Letting children see this is lunacy."

Freakish

He said the film's climax was "so nauseating I blinked in disbelief before walking out of the cinema - the first time in my career as a film writer that I have been literally unable to stomach a film".

Around the world those who have seen Hannibal at preview screenings have underlined the horrific violence of the film in a similar way, though critical responses have been mixed.

Alexander Walker of London's Evening Standard said: "It is certainly not for anyone with a weak stomach," pointing out that the grisly denouement involves a child.

Hannibal opens in the UK on 16 February with an 18 certificate, which bans minors from seeing it at all.

The New York Post critic called the film a "perverse opera of horrors, freakish enough to include paedophilia, disembowelment and deformity".

Australia's chief censor, Des Clark, defended the MA rating, though he said it was not a film he would personally enjoy.

Julianne Moore and Sir Anthony Hopkins
Julianne Moore with co-star Sir Anthony Hopkins
"I have confidence the classification board has made a good decision," he told ABC radio.

Violence

"Some of the depictions are high impact but they're infrequent, they're not prolonged or gratuitous."

Clark argued that the classification rating was high enough to warn of high level violence and to make parents seriously consider whether they should let their child see the movie.

"As a parent taking a child to a film like that would have to be a very, very considered decision and they should probably see the film before they would take a child."

The Australian Council of State Schools Organisation, which represents parents, criticised the censorship board for being more concerned about sex than violence in films.

"The decisions by the board are not reflecting community values," said council president Rodney Molesworth.

Good and evil

"Parents tell us around the country that they are deeply concerned with the portrayal of violence as ordinary."

Actress Julianne Moore who replaces Jodie Foster as FBI agent Clarice Starling who is pursuing Hannibal Lecter, has said she had to see her therapist because of the nature of the violence, which she worried about as "a parent and a person".

However she also pointed out that Hannibal may have useful moral lessons.

"Eventually I came to feel that this story was fable-like.

"This is a film about good and evil coming up against each other," she said.

"Hannibal is the dark side that is everyone."

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See also:

05 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Hannibal the cannibal returns
19 Jan 01 | Entertainment
Berlin debut for Hannibal
09 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Third Hannibal film planned
08 Jun 99 | Entertainment
Hannibal makes a killing
06 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Hannibal actress sought therapy
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