Sex scares: ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ will not be released in India

Posted by · 5:54 pm · February 1st, 2012

Five Oscar nominations (for cinematography, editing, sound editing, sound mixing and Best Actress Rooney Mara) will likely serve to provide David Fincher”s “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” with a nice little publicity boost as it heads into the final stages of its international roll out. The citizens of India, however, will not have the opportunity to see the film in theaters.

The Guardian reports that Sony Pictures has cancelled the scheduled February 10 release date after India’s Central Board of Film Certification insisted that 5 scenes be pulled from Fincher”s cut. Both the director and the studio refused to make the adjustments, opting to abandon the open altogether.

A statement from Sony”s Mumbai office explained the studio”s position thusly:

“While we are committed to maintaining and protecting the vision of the director, we will, as always, respect the guidelines set by the Board.”

Both the sex and sexual violence depicted in the film were considered unsuitable for public viewing by the censor. The five sequences in question included two of the sexual interludes between Daniel Craig”s Mikael Blomkvist and Mara”s Lisbeth Salander, as well as Nils Bjurman”s violent rape of Salander. I am left wondering about the remaining two scenes, but would imagine that they include her retribution.

Each of the sequences under discussion are legitimately essential to the story arc. To lose them would alter the dynamics in the relationships and confuse the motivations present in the remaining interactions. Though The Hindustan Times included a statement from the Board indicating that image blur would have sufficed as it was the nudity, rather than the sex or the violence, which was at issue.

“We wanted several scenes in ‘The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo” to be blurred,” said JP Singh, regional officer (West), CBFC. “Bare bottom and bare-breast scenes are not allowed in India.”

Yet The Hollywood Reporter was present at the film’s debut in Japan, where limited “mosaic-blurring” was utilized to cover offending bits. So we imagine that the restrictions in India did indeed extend beyond the request for a subtle blurring of the nude images.

It is always interesting to see how various cultures respond to content. It becomes so deeply revealing. The Vatican and China were both opposed to James Cameron”s “Avatar,” the former due to what were deemed to be paganistic messages and the later for fear that farmers who had been forced off their lands in favor of developers would relate with the Na”vi causing civil unrest.

In terms of current cinema, there is something intrinsically interesting in “Shame””s NC-17 rating versus “Dragon Tattoo””s R here. There”s not much to be said that hasn”t been said in terms of the befuddling nature of our sexual mores (a naked penis is deemed somehow more disturbing than the depiction of two violent anal rapes), but it still continues to fascinate me.

Each incident is indicative of a specific socio-political condition unique to the area. The link, however, always seems to be an undercurrent of fear. I am not of the belief that there should be a content free-for-all, but there is something liberating in really examining the motivations for censorship and/or restrictions.

For year-round entertainment news and commentary follow @JRothC on Twitter.

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