“Absurd”: Many films are not allowed to be shown in the cinema on Good Friday

If you switch to the TV channels on Good Friday, you could theoretically come across the fifth “Rambo” film or the satire “The Life of Brian”. In the cinema, however, these works should not be shown at all – because they are not approved for public holidays. The Rühmann classic “Die Feuerzangenbowle” was also taboo for a long time. Films may only be shown publicly on so-called silent holidays with a public holiday approval. It applies to cinemas, but not to TV and streaming providers. To critics, that sounds absurd and out of date.

“The background are regulations that still come from the Weimar Republic,” explains Stefan Linz, managing director of Voluntary self-regulation of the film industry (FSK) in Wiesbaden. At that time, silent holidays were subject to special legal protection. “After the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany, these regulations were adopted slightly changed.” Depending on the federal state, for example, Good Friday, All Saints Day, Day of Repentance and Prayer, Day of Memorial Day and Sunday of the Dead are considered to be silent holidays.

Specifically, this means: If a rental company applies for a public holiday release, an FSK committee decides on it. In doing so, the FSK takes into account the laws of the federal states – and accordingly only those films may be shown publicly on silent holidays if the “serious character” of these days is preserved. According to the FSK, the exact formulation varies, but ultimately pursues a similar idea.

The fact that there are restrictions for the cinema, but not for radio or other distribution channels such as DVDs or online offers, can only be explained by the fact that the laws came from another time and were never adapted, according to the assessment of FSK managing director Linz . “From today’s perspective, it is no longer understandable,” he says. “That makes no sense”. In addition, in the cinema, in particular, people consciously decide to watch a film, while zapping on television can also unintentionally see something.

Nevertheless, this regulation remains in place so far – and ensures that films continue to receive no public holiday approval. Like for example in 2019 “Rambo: Last Blood”. According to the FSK, the reason was: “Numerous staged killing scenes and especially the final scene stand in the way of the seriousness of the silent holidays.” The agent comedy “Kingsman – The Golden Circle” was also rejected in 2017 because of “insufficient consideration of the perspective of the victims of violence”.

The controversial and not really non-violent film “Antichrist” by Lars von Trier, however, received a public holiday approval in 2009. In general, the number of releases has risen sharply over the decades: In the 1950s, 60 percent of all cinema films were rated as “not holiday-free”. That number fell steadily, to around 50 percent in the 1970s and 30 percent in the 1980s. Since 2000, on average, only one percent of the films applied for have not been approved for public holidays.

In addition, a work can be reassessed at a later date – and then given approval. This was the case, for example, with “Die Feuerzangenbowle” from 1944 with Heinz Rühmann. The “playful character” during the initial test meant that the FSK contradicted a public holiday approval. In 1980 there was a new examination, since then the comedy has been allowed to be shown in the cinema on Good Friday.

One film, however, has been on the list for a long time: The over-the-top satire “The Life of Brian”, in which the British comedian group Monty Python targets the time of Jesus Christ, was not approved for public holidays in 1980. The “parody of biblical stories” contradicted the serious character, the FSK found at the time.

The initiative Religious free in the area calls for a consistent separation of state and church and, among other things, defends against the fact that certain films are not allowed to be shown on Good Friday. “This is a provocation for non-religious people,” says Martin Budich from the initiative. Not everyone has to be sad that day, he says.

That is why “The Life of Brian” was shown on Good Friday for several years. “The film is an example of how church privileges limit our behavior,” he says. Germany is a pluralistic state. The fact that there are still holiday releases for films is “something completely absurd”.


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