In one of the scenes in Censor, by director Prano Bailey-Bond, the camera focuses on Enid’s (Niamh Algar) face for almost two minutes. We don’t see what she can see, but the transformation of her face makes it clear that it is almost unbearable. The invisible screen flickers, the character’s eyes open in a silent horror and in the end there is only a static image of the terrifying. But she never looked away or even blinked. The character devours terror and violence with almost terrified delight, and soon shows it in all its glory.
Why is our culture obsessed with violent content in its raw state? No one knows for sure and Censor does not expect to provide answers. Much less does he try to vindicate the idea even though gives your character a haunting trauma as context. In reality, the objective of the film is to explore terror from a physical, real and close angle. Enid is a British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) censor in the 1980s. But the argument is more interested in the fact of the power of the material it looks at than in the grounds for censorship.
Censor is actually a desperate search for notions about the terrifying in its purest form. Every movie Enid sees is a connection to something more primitive and also an allegory of fear. But at the same time there is no moral judgment on the need to explore human nature on its unpleasant reverse side.
The so-called Videos Nasties (as popular in the 1980s as they are unknown today) were a collection of tiny everyday horrors. Halfway between snuff and tabloid consumerism, the videos portrayed disaster culture in all its dark glory. Among the horrors of crimes and street events of extreme violence were a look outside the cultural.
Censor’s big question is summed up by several of his toughest sequences that have little or nothing to do with what Enid sees on the screen. Actually, director Prano Bailey-Bond pursues the character with her camera and questions him. It makes it the center of something denser and as the film exposes its premise – more twisted by minutes – an elementary point is clear. Censor does not want to raise the great doubts about the inevitable attraction towards the dark culture. You want the questions to be more frequent, unpleasant, and ultimately accurate about human nature.
‘Censor’, the terror that nobody wants to look at
Of course, with a similar premise, the movie has two options. Fully show the unhealthy pleasure of analyzing content from a distance or immersing yourself in it. Censor seems to be in the middle. Algar’s character is simplistic at best to demonstrate the weight and slow trickle of the cross into his psyche.
On more than one occasion, the film raises real discussions about the terrifying while making it clear that his point of view is not real. In fact, it’s not even sincere. Enid doesn’t stop staring, and she’s also not interested in her work. That despite reprimands and a recent scandal.
But Enid has a painful family history that ties into the sinister to create something new. Censor’s greatest merit is analyzing and trusting that the secret that is not shown is powerful enough to define the premise. And it does, in the way that it carefully conceals the supposed gruesome scenes that Enid must cut, eliminate or reduce. With a certain air of the tense need to escape from Alejandro Amenábar’s Thesis, Censor is much more interesting when he frees himself from psychological terror.
Outside of the censor room, trying to resolve her traumas through what she looks at on a daily basis, Enid is more effective than ever. His sister disappeared almost a decade ago and the wound becomes more evident as the film provides some explanations about her psyche.
Does Enid watch the constant dose of violence for an answer to her own personal horror? Simplistic as it seems, the script does not advance beyond that perception of fear that is reflected in mirrors. But even so, the plot is so well constructed and so conscious of the weight of the claustrophobic atmosphere that it holds up solidly.
Look and not look
Beyond its attempts to create a sinister drama with psychological roots, Censor is a horror film and it shows it with subtlety. When Enid becomes obsessed with a director’s videos showing missing women, the film becomes less effective.
Much less when paranoia invades everything and the character ends up looking for clues everywhere. Some more credible, others completely the result of little c schemes laughs. But still, Censor moves on to build a persistent idea about private fear and how tempting it is.
The forbidden is everywhere in a film that finds ways to resolve the sense of urgency to understand terror. But the premise falls short when simply, more a harsh criticism of the collective fear, what other thing.
But still, the moral pressure and terror from a different angle create a strange duo. Disturbing at times, overwhelming at others, the film has a total conception of fear that is its best asset.