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The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael - British gang rape film provokes walkouts at Cannes

Story by: Jack Foley

A BRITISH film which features horrific scenes of gang-rape has prompted an audience walk-out at the Cannes Film Festival 2005, as well as one critic to describe it as so violent 'it makes Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange look like a Britney Spears' video'.

The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael marks the directorial debut of Thomas Clay and stars Danny Dyer and Lesley Manville.

It is designed to shock - but according to reports from the festival, its brutality is such that securing a UK release for the film might now prove difficult.

The film is set in an English seaside town at the time of the war in Iraq and stars Daniel Spencer as initially shy teenager, Robert Carmichael, who becomes involved in drugs, despite showing promise as a bright student.

Having fallen in with the wrong crowd, led by Dyer's Larry, however, Robert starts dealing ecstasy and enters into a downward spiral of drugs and violence.

In one of two highly-controversial scenes, Robert is seen watching the invasion of Iraq on TV, as a heavily drugged teenage girl is gang-raped in the next room.

This rape takes place off-camera but left critics feeling suitably appalled, according to various reports from Cannes journalists.

But the scene which follows allegedly takes things too far, unfolding in graphic detail, as the gang breaks into the home of a TV chef and attack him and his wife while still high on drugs.

They tie the couple up and then take turns to rape the woman, before she bleeds to death.

The sequence takes place against the backdrop of a classical music score by Elgar and Purcell, drawing inevitable comparisons with Kubrick's infamous (and previously banned) rape scene in A Clockwork Orange.

Critics from industry bible, Variety, labelled the sequence as 'excruciating beyond any in memory', while most if not all found it completely objectionable.

The Guardian, meanwhile, described the scene as 'noxious'.

Incredibly, the film's 26-year-old director has defended the content, insisting that he wanted audiences to feel 'shocked and disgusted' by the scene and arguing that gang-rapes happen regularly in war zones such as Bosnia and Iraq.

Yet the backlash against him is expected to be spectacular as he seeks to get it past the censors in the UK.

It also prompts the suspicion that the sequence has been included purely to generate the film some publicity - a ploy which has worked for some of the most notorious films in history.

While I have not seen the film, the prospect of doing so, even now, prompts a sickening feeling in my stomach, especially as such sequences seem unecessary in the extreme.

The clever filmmaker would seek to make his point with subtlety and can refer to such acts without showing them. You really have to question a film that seeks to shock people into parting with their money.

What's more lamentable, given the criticism surrounding the British film industry, is that it is the only UK film playing in competition at this year's festival.

Can the industry really be proud of such an offering?

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