Notes On A Scandal tells the story of a schoolteacher who has an affair with one of her pupils. Her actions are discovered by an older female teacher who had befriended the younger woman and who uses her knowledge of this illicit affair for her own dubious ends. The theme of the film was one of the factors that led to the 15 classification, but there were other issues that also led to this recommendation.
It was submitted for classification in November 2006 and, as well as the theme, the examiners noted strong language, moderate sex and strong sex references.
The language alone warranted placing the film at 15. There are some 12 uses of ‘f**k’ and derivatives thereof and one use of ‘c**t’. The former are easily contained at 15, where frequent strong language is permitted. BBFC Guidelines state that the strongest terms are only acceptable where justified by context. The use of ‘c**t’ in this film is neither aggressive nor directed but spoken in an almost affectionate way by the schoolboy to his teacher/lover and refers very specifically to his longing for that part of her anatomy. He telephones her and says ‘I’ve been dreaming of your hot sweet c**t all morning’. This level and frequency of strong language was a category defining issue.
This statement was also the strongest sex reference in a film where the strength and abundance of sex references were an additional category defining issue. A boy talks disparagingly about the main character and says another boy ‘gave her one up the arse’. A male character asks his lover, ‘Do you suck?’ in a deliberate double entendre.
The sex scenes between teacher and pupil are handled fairly sensitively. There is no nudity, but there are some very clear suggestions that sex is taking place, such as when the older woman sinks below screen to perform fellatio on her young lover, and the two roll around in a passionate clinch on some waste ground. By themselves the sex scenes would not have warranted any category higher than 12A but, with the strong verbal references, are appropriately placed at 15.
The overall theme of this work, the taboo subject of teacher/pupil sexual relationships, was considered by the examiners to be a very mature one. There are few precedents for such a narrative and it was felt that this would be a difficult subject for younger teenagers to handle. Accordingly, for the theme alone the film was deemed properly placed at ‘15. The BBFCinsight for Notes on a Scandal reads ‘Contains strong language and sex references’.
Notes On A Scandal was also passed 15 on DVD and was selected as part of National Schools Film Week 2007.