Director Alexandre Aja
In 2008, 20th Century Fox released French director Alexandre Aja's remake of the South Korean film Into the Mirror , which would go on to be released into theatres under the simpler title of Mirrors. Aja made around 10 seconds of trims to
the film before its original theatrical release in order to attain an R rating from the MPAA, and with these cuts made the film was passed with an R rating in the United States for:
Strong violence, disturbing images, language and brief nudity.
As is common for most Hollywood films, this R rated version would be the standard version distributed for theatrical release in other countries around the world, although an unrated version later made its way onto DVD and Blu-ray which restored the
previously-removed violent footage. However, at least one other version of the film was released in 2008 -- the UK cinema version. It is this version of Mirrors that we'll be taking a look at in this episode of Cutting Edge.
Mirrors at the BBFC
The R rated version of the film was originally seen by the BBFC in the UK for an Advice Viewing; a process we have covered in previous Cutting Edge episodes. 20th Century Fox wanted a 15 rating for the UK theatrical release of Mirrors, but the BBFC said
that the film would likely receive an 18 rating if it was submitted for a formal classification in its current form. The Board cited four violent scenes as being problematic at 15, and we'll be examining these scenes in detail in the following
First of all, it is worth discussing the issue of running times. Movies are normally projected at a frame rate of 24 frames per second. When a movie is transferred to a video format like DVD (a process known as 'telecine'), different frame rates are used
depending on the television system that is in use in the country of release. The PAL format runs at 25 frames per second, so in countries such as Britain and Australia, a movie's frame rate is slightly sped up from 24 frames per second to 25 frames per
second to fit the PAL video standard, which results in the so-called "PAL speedup" effect. This increase from 24 to 25 frames per second is why a movie in PAL sounds slightly higher pitched than it did on film, because the movie is running
about 4% faster than it did on film. Ergo, a movie will have a slightly shorter running time on video in PAL territories than it did in theatres. The longer the movie, the shorter the PAL version will be. For example, Mel Gibson's Braveheart is
about 177 minutes long on film. In PAL, it runs for about 170 mins, so on the face of it, Braveheart looks to be missing seven whole minutes of material on video, when in reality it is only running at a slightly faster frame rate.
For countries that use the NTSC standard such as the United States and Japan, a movie is telecined for video using a process known as 3:2 pulldown. NTSC video runs at 29.97 frames per second, so a 24 frames per second movie is converted to 29.97 frames
per second using a frame interpolation algorithm. On Blu-ray, movies shot on film at 24 frames per second can be encoded in high definition at the same frame rate, so regardless of the country of release, there are no issues like PAL speedup on Blu-ray
discs -- unless a film company chooses to uses a PAL master for the transfer. However, this is a very rare occurrence.
Why mention this now? Due to the informal nature of their Advice Viewings, the BBFC do not cite a total amount of cuts in their online records; unlike cuts made following a formal submission, where the Board's website will list the amount of footage that
was edited following official changes. In fact, a cursory glance at a pre-cut film on the BBFC's website will have a film listed as having no cuts made, despite the fact that cuts were made previously following an Advice Viewing.
At first glance the film seems uncut. However the 'passed uncut' statement refers only to the BBFC action on this formal submission. In this case the BBFC advised cuts were made prior to submission and so weren't considered as BBFC cuts made during
the formal submission.
Hence the misleading 'passed uncut' statement.
In other words, there is no official record of the exact amount of cuts made to something like Mirrors for its UK theatrical release. A straight comparison of running time between the UK cinema version and the US DVD is not an accurate indication of the
amount of footage that was removed either, due to the pulldown process discussed above. But by doing some mathematical calculations, it is possible to get a rough idea of how much footage was cut for the UK's 15 rating.
BBFC advised cuts for a 15 rated cinema release
For the UK theatrical release of Mirrors, the BBFC list the film's running time as being 110 minutes and 20 seconds on film (running at 24 frames per second). The US DVD release of the original R rated version of Mirrors runs for 111 minutes and five
seconds in NTSC format (running at 29.97 frames per second). However, as we've discussed, the film would have been telecined to NTSC video using the 3:2 pulldown method. By reversing this pulldown process, the R rated version's running time on film would
have been about 110 minutes and 58 seconds. That gives us an increase of 38 seconds in running time for the R rated version on film when compared to the UK cinema version. Furthermore, when converting the running time of the UK cinema version into NTSC
speed, the running time would be 110 minutes and 27 seconds, which again, gives us a difference of 38 seconds when compared to the R rated version in NTSC. In short, it is therefore reasonable to assume that around 38 seconds were removed for the UK
Cut Scenes: Security guard
The first changes occur during the pre-credits sequence, when a security guard meets a grisly end at the hands of his own reflection. The reflection stabs a glass shard into his neck and slices open his throat, whilst the security guard's throat in the
real world is also slashed open as blood sprays copiously from the wound. The R rated version had already received minor cuts in order to appease the MPAA, and following the Advice Viewing, the BBFC suggested to the filmmakers that a 15 rating could be
achieved by altering the scene as follows:
...the bloody spray in the slashing open of a throat in the opening sequence should be removed.
Cut Scenes: Injured woman
The second scene cut occurs around half an hour later, as Kiefer Sutherland's character Ben sees a vision of a gravely injured woman. Half naked and charred, she screams out in agony as her body becomes blackened. For the UK version, the BBFC suggested
to the filmmakers that the:
...focus on a badly burned partially naked woman, crying out in pain, should be reduced or removed.
Cut Scenes: Bathtime death
The third scene that the BBFC suggested should be reduced sees Ben's sister Angie being killed as she takes a bath. Angie's reflection grabs hold of her lips and graphically tears apart her mouth, with the results happening to Angie in real life as she
lies helpless in the bath. Again, the R rated version had already been cut for the MPAA, and following the BBFC Advice Viewing, the Board communicated to the filmmakers that:
...the protracted bloody detail when a woman's jaw is ripped apart be reduced.
Cut Scenes: Deadly mom
The last instance of censorship occurs around 88 minutes into the film, when the young Daisy is injured by the evil reflection of her mother Amy. Amy's reflection prods a scissor blade into Daisy's neck, and begins to slices her neck before the real-life
Amy bursts into the room and saves Daisy. Although the scene is far tamer and less graphic than other violence in the film, the BBFC suggested to the filmmakers that:
...after scissors have been pressed against the neck of a young girl, the sight of scissors being drawn across the neck causing a larger bloody wound [should] be removed.
After changes had been made by the film company, Mirrors was submitted to the BBFC in its pre-cut form for a formal classification, and the Board passed the film with a 15 rating on October 10th 2008, noting that the film:
Contains sustained threat, strong violence, horror and language.
Uncut for 18 rated home video releases
Not content with releasing the censored version on DVD or Blu-ray in the UK, both the R rated version and the unrated version were later submitted to the BBFC by 20th Century Fox for separate home video classifications. The R rated version was passed
uncut with an 18 rating on November 11th 2008 and the unrated version was also passed uncut with an 18 rating on February 16th 2009, with the BBFC consumer advice noting that the film:
Contains strong bloody violence and horror.
Since the original UK cinema version of Mirrors has never received a home video release in the UK, British fans can pick up the film on DVD or Blu-ray; content that they are getting the full uncut version of the film without any form of BBFC
Cutting Edge Video Episode 28: Mirrors