'Only God Forgives' Causes Ratings Controversy in France

Only God Forgives Ryan Gosling - P 2012
The Weinstein Company

Only God Forgives Ryan Gosling - P 2012

The film's age warning downgrade from 16 to 12 garners criticism.

PARIS -- Perhaps Only God Forgives, but the French film ratings board certainly reconsiders. Nicolas Winding Refn’s ultra-violent revenge tale’s rating was downgraded from prohibiting those under 16 upon its release May 22 in France, to banning only those under 12 for its second week on screens. (The move is akin to changing an R rating to a PG-13 in the U.S.) 

The decision has been met with criticism, with former presidential candidate Segolene Royal accusing culture minister Aurelie Filippetti of buckling under the pressure of producers. Royal, still a significant political voice since her run against former President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007, said Filipppetti had intervened and railed against the final decision. “We cannot give both the benefits of ‘family films’ and at the same time pollute youth with scenes of extreme violence,” Royal said.

Filippetti hit back, quickly issuing a statement that she “wished to correct some inaccuracies.”

PHOTOS: The Dirty Dozen: Films that Narrowly Avoided an NC-17

"The Minister is in no way intervened to change the rating issued by the Commission … but simply asked for a second viewing as the law authorizes, after the distributor of the film challenged the first opinion of a ban minors under the age of 16," said the statement. After a debate, the commission reportedly decided to return to its first decision, and rate the film with an under-12 prohibition.

Manuel Chiche, head of distributor Wild Side told newspaper Le Parisien: “The minister was sensitive to my arguments, like the Commission, because it is rare that [the commission] changes its mind. I don’t  think that Only God Forgives is more violent than Rambo, where children are shredded by machine gun. It is a work of art, where the violence is stylized.”

Stylized or not, the film, a revenge tale starring Ryan Gosling as a gangster out to find his brother's killer and with Kristin Scott Thomas as his manipulative mother, shocked audiences with its bloodiness when it debuted in Cannes, even in this particularly violent year. And in a country where nudity and sex are commonplace on screens both big and small, violence has traditionally met with more resistance. It remains to be seen if French audiences will reconsider as the commission did, with the movie opening in 4th place and falling to 7th.

Only God Forgives will be released in the U.S. July 19 by The Weinstein Co.’s Radius label.