Censor (2021)

Directed by Prano Bailey-Bond

Writen by Prano Bailey-Bond and Anthony Fletcher

After viewing a strangely familiar video nasty, Enid, a film censor, sets out to solve the past mystery of her sister’s disappearance, embarking on a quest that dissolves the line between fiction and reality.

There are likely to be some mild spoilers below, so please be warned!

Prano Bailey-Bond’s debut feature is a masterful exploration of video-nasties, censorship and the human brain, exploring the links between violence and the films that were thought to promote and cause it back in the 80s.

Niamh Algar is Enid, a straight-laced video censor who is very good at her job, but who suffers with some deep-seated psychological issues linked to the disappearance of her sister Nina (Amelie Child-Villiers) when they were children. Enid may or may not know more about the disappearance than the audience is allowed to know, but the viewing of a film that appears to mirror her experience of years before opens the door to the unravelling of Enid’s sanity and raises questions about the disappearance of Nina; was she kidnapped? Lost? Or something more sinister that Enid has buried deep in her subconscious?

Censor cleverly mirrors Enid’s descent into madness through an homage to the video nasty “crisis” that anyone over the age of 40 will remember well! Questions about the effect of those films on their viewers were hot topics back in the 80s and we see those same questions asked again through Censor as Enid works hard to protect the public from the terrors in the films she reviews, while she also seems to be protecting herself from the terrors of reality.

A grisly murder is attributed to a viewing of a video-nasty, passed by Enid, although the perpetrator claims to have no memory of the killings and is dubbed the “Amnesiac Killer.” This draws parallels for Enid around her sister’s disappearance and her own lack of any memory of what happened. Discussions with a colleague consider how the human mind can block out traumatic events, further questioning Enid’s recollection of the day her sister disappeared. Did Enid witness (perpetrate) something so terrible that her own mind has blocked it out to protect her?

Delving into the work of the director of the film that dragged up the past, Enid believes she has found her sister, living and working as an actress and she goes in search of her. If she can find her and bring her home, then she can mend her family and the rift between her and her parents. As she turns up at a night shoot for the director’s latest film, a sequel to the one Enid reviewed, the lines between fiction nand reality are blurred and things get seriously out of control for Enid.

I will say no more, as to do so would ruin the ending and give up more of Censor’s secrets.

However, although potentially confusing, I thoroughly enjoyed Censor’s final scenes and the messages it was putting across. Although reality and fiction are intertwined in the final scenes, and there is plenty that is open to interpretation, I don’t think Censor tries to be too clever or hide anything from the audience. I was left with things to think about, but had the tools and the information I needed to piece together what I had just seen and appreciate the horror of the events.

Censor cleverly asks that question about life imitating art and explores the impact of horror and video-nasties on human behaviour. However, it doesn’t come down hard on the side of the video-nasty and we all know that there is no link between watching horror and being a horrible person. As the film progresses we discover that the Amnesiac Killer never actually watched the video-nasty in question, reinforcing the truth about the world – that there are far more horrible things to deal with and understand in real-life than we ever need to worry about in horror. We are told there is a darkness inside Enid and we get a glimpse into that hell and the film suggest that, perhaps, censorship and cutting/blocking things out is potentially much more dangerous than seeing the whole.

Censor is a powerful and fascinating debut and well worth a view!

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