British Board of Film Classification

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The Falling

Film information

  • The Falling

  • Director: Carol Morley

  • Status: 15 uncut

  • Year: 2014

Genre: Drama

The Falling is a British drama, directed by Carol Morley. Set in the 1960s, it depicts a mysterious fainting epidemic that develops amongst a group of students at a strict girls’ school, following a traumatic incident with one of the pupils.

The film first came to the BBFC in March 2014 in an unfinished form (the credits were incomplete) for an advice viewing. Advice viewings are a service that allows companies to obtain an indication of the likely category of a work, before submitting a final version for classification. If requested by the film's distributor, the BBFC will suggest any changes required to obtain a particular category. The Falling arrived with no specific category request from the distributors. 

The examining team viewed the film with BBFC Director David Cooke, noting strong sex as the category-defining issue. Defining issues secure the age rating, although many films feature other content that the examining team discuss, and which might be of interest to parents or viewers: the BBFCinsight records all such information.

We use the BBFC Classification Guidelines, current research and the law as the basis for all decision making, whilst also bearing in mind recent classification decisions for similar works.

The strongest sex scene in The Falling features significant thrusting and some partial buttock nudity, although no strong or explicit sexual detail. In other scenes, there is mostly just an implication of sexual activity, with more of an emphasis on characters' faces and reactions. One of the sex scenes is between a brother and sister, and, in another, a man's hands are down his trousers, suggesting masturbation, although once again there is limited detail.

The film also contains strong verbal sex references to orgasms and virginity. We considered that the sex and sexual themes in the film, whilst too strong and intense for the 12A category, are comfortably within BBFC Classification Guidelines limitations at 15 - especially as the incest scene between siblings is not glamorised, and clearly depicted in the narrative as wrong. Given the potential target audience for The Falling, the examining team further reasoned that the film is unlikely to hold significant appeal for younger audiences below the mid-teen classification of 15. They advised The Falling's distributors that, in its present form, a 15 classification was an appropriate rating for the film.

Other issues in The Falling, whilst not category defining, include some focus on bruises and other mysterious injuries, as the students succumb to their ‘hysteria’. There is sight of some blood occasionally, but this is brief and generally either medical or symbolic in nature, and justified by the context of the film. Some characters smoke frequently throughout the drama, but they are all adult, and smoking was a common habit in the 1960s setting, when there was no general awareness of the health risks involved. A single throwaway and critical drugs reference is very mild.

Almost a year later a trailer for The Fallinq was passed at 12A, after the distributors chose to make a category cut (part of a sex scene in a car was removed) rather than take a 15 classification. The final version of the feature arrived for formal classification in March 2015, without a category request. As the category-defining content was identical to that in the film seen for advice, we passed it at 15 without cuts. The short BBFCinsight states 'strong sex', and BBFC published the longer BBFCinsight on the website 10 days before the film opened in cinemas.

When we viewed the video version of the film, in late March 2015, it was the same as the theatrical release and so again classified 15. BBFC staff introduced screenings of The Falling at the Into Film Festival 2015.