Visions Of Ecstasy

Dir: Nigel Wingrove, 1989


Aside from being an attack on human rights and freedom of speech, the trouble with censorship is that it makes the forbidden more desirable. The BBFC have been prohibiting and censoring films for over a hundred years. Movies that have been deemed “harmful” or “dangerous”, probably would have flown under the radar if it wasn’t for the restrictions imposed on them.

Wes Craven’s Last House On The Left and Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre were denied certificates in Britain for over twenty years. Both films were highly sought after and widely seen, despite not being officially available.

Nigel Wingrove’s short, has the dubious distinction of being the only film to be banned in the UK for blasphemy. It wasn’t until 2008, when the law of blasphemy was repealed, that Visions Of Ecstasy became eligible for re-submission. The DVD is now on sale, fully uncut, with a BBFC approved rating of ’18’.

The plot (if you can call it that) centres on Saint Teresa fantasising sexually about the body of Christ. Basically, it’s a nun masturbating over Jesus on the cross and stabbing her palms with a crucifix, emulating the saviour’s wounds.

Yep. That’s it.

There’s no explanation to anything. People argue that Ken Russell’s The Devils is blasphemous and nothing but pornography. But Russell based his script off of two sources, and it does have an air of truth, as historical documents prove.

Why is Saint Teresa trying to copy Christ’s wounds? What set off her sexual frenzy? Nobody knows. It starts with a nun giving her kipper a tickle, rides Jesus’s body and ends. Visions Of Ecstasy is an exercise in bad taste and provocation.

Judging by his other films, Wingrove has a fetish for nuns. Sacred Flesh took things further by having a full length feature of lesbians in a nunnery.

Shot entirely without dialogue, the film is soft core porn, but excused as art. With lingering close ups of pubic hair and heaving breasts, Wingrove has been funded to indulge in his fetishistic whims.

As a film, it’s dreadful. Pretentious, smug and self-gratifying, Visions Of Ecstasy screams of a director believing that he’s making a valuable contribution to cinema.

Even as porn, it’s crap. You can’t knock one out to it. If your balls were blue, there is nothing in this that could help you out.

Seriously, watch a Jesus Franco film or Jean Rollin one. They have more artistic merit than this cack.

Mercifully, it’s only runs for eighteen minutes, but it seems a lot longer while you’re watching it.

Like The Devils, though, the history is more interesting than the product. The film’s troubling past and legal issues, is a fascinating read and offers a brilliant insight into UK law and the European Court of Human Rights.

Give this a miss and research about it, instead. You’ll find it a lot more fulfilling.


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