The 1989 short Visions of Ecstasy has had a ban on its release lifted
The 1989 short Visions of Ecstasy has had a ban on its release lifted Wingrove & Stevenson

The only film ever to be denied a UK release on grounds of blasphemy has been granted a certificate 23 years later.

Visions of Ecstasy, a short by Nigel Wingrove, was refused certification by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) in 1989 over concerns that the film could be at risk of prosecution for blasphemous libel.

The film featured a scene depicting the 16th century Spanish nun Saint Teresa of Avila caressing the body of Jesus on the cross.

Cuts were not possible, as the offending scenes constituted almost half of the film's 18-minute length.

The blasphemy law was repealed in 2008 and the BBFC gave Wingrove the option to re-submit the film, which has now been cleared for release.

"With the abolition of the offence of blasphemy, the board does not consider that the film is in breach of any other UK law that is currently in force," the BBFC stated.

"The board recognises that the content of the film may be deeply offensive to some viewers. However, the board's guidelines reflect the clear view of the public that adults should have the right to choose their own viewing, provided that the material in question is neither illegal nor harmful."

Despite the film receiving the go-ahead, Wingrove told the Guardian that he had reservations about its release.

"If I made the film now, I would make it very differently," he said. "I was exploring areas of dark eroticism, but I had worked chiefly in prints, not films.

"People say I should put it out, but on a personal level I have reservations. If I did release it, I would need to put it into context and, perhaps, release a documentary to accompany it."

Film-makers often find themselves forced to make the tricky decision between making cuts to ensure their film is released and maintaining their artistic vision. David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo will not be released in India because he refused to cut sexually explicit scenes.