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Hacksaw Ridge

R15: Depicts graphic and realistic war scenes

Spoiler alert

This page outlines how the classification criteria were applied. We do our best to discuss the content while avoiding spoilers, but please avoid reading this information if you do not want to learn anything about the content of this movie.

Hacksaw Ridge movie poster

Date registered: 04/11/2016

About the film

Hacksaw Ridge dramatises the real-life experiences of World War II American soldier, Desmond Doss, the first conscientious objector to receive the Congressional Medal of Honour.

Desmond enlists to fight in World War II after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. However training camp proves tough for him when he insists on his constitutional right to serve strictly as a medic.

A still image from the film - Desmond Doss looks out at the battlefield from the trenches

Classification criteria: Cruelty and violence

Hacksaw Ridge has a high extent and degree of violence, which initially touches on domestic violence and bullying, and progresses to explosive gut-wrenching war combat in the second half. The implications of domestic violence, mainly conveyed by dialogue, and Desmond's bullying at the hands of his barrack-room comrades, are fleetingly depicted but have strong emotional impact.

When Desmond and his fellow soldiers enter combat in Okinawa the screen becomes a canvas of human destruction. Combatants of both sides are ripped apart by grenade blasts, artillery shells and bullets, resulting in the bursts and splatter of blood. Bullets tear through bodies, legs and arms are ripped off by explosions, and Japanese soldiers are set on fire by flamethrowers.

A still image from the film - soldiers under fire running across the battlefield

Why the film was given an R15 classification

The battlefield is littered with dead bodies, some from previous engagements which are covered with maggots or rats. Viewers are encouraged to see the combat from the perspective of unarmed medic Desmond who tourniquets injured limbs, bandages bloody wounds, administers morphine shots and, time and again, retrieves the wounded.

The action is viewed from an intimate perspective that engages audience empathy as Desmond's comrades, who have been introduced to viewers early in the film, are killed or wounded one-by-one.

The most significant element of the dominant effect is the way the film shows the futility of war. The extent and degree of violence and cruelty in the second-half of the film, although highly edited and contextualised by the dominant effect, means that unrestricted availability of this publication is likely to be injurious to the public good. Children and young teenagers are particularly likely to be disturbed and distressed by the quick but graphic images.

The graphic nature of violence warrants restriction, and a higher restriction may have been necessary. However the Classification Office noted that the pacifist stance of the main character has a strong emotional impact.

The Classification Office also noted that the film has artistic merit and cultural and educational value in the way it deals with this theme, and it has the potential to be useful to senior high school students. This sets the film apart from other films that may show significant violence.

Restricting the film to 15 years of age and over gives this older teenage group access while avoiding the likelihood of injury if the film was made available to younger teens. This classification is a reasonable and demonstrably justified limitation on the freedom of expression in order to prevent injury to the public good.

R15 is not a commonly used classification and, as is the case with Hacksaw Ridge, it has generally been applied to films that have artistic merit and cultural and educational value - despite sometimes depicting violence in a way that would normally warrant a higher age rating.

A still image from the film - Desmond helps a wounded soldier out on the battlefield

Other R15 classification decisions

Battle For Haditha (DVD)

R15: Violence and content that may disturb

Battle For Haditha is a dramatisation which is based on true events, the Haditha killings, which occurred in the current Iraq war. The film is set over three days and is shot in a fly on the wall documentary style. The Classification Office noted: "The dominant effect of this publication is of a balanced and well researched insight into an important event in the recent Iraq war." It was described as having "social and educational merit."

Out Of The Blue (film and DVD)

R15: Violence and content that may disturb

Out Of The Blue is an understated retelling of the massacre of 13 people by lone gunman David Gray in the remote Otago township of Aramoana on 13-14 November 1990. In its decision, the Classification Office noted that the film - an account of actual events in New Zealand's recent history - has merit in that it deals with a "highly emotional event in a responsible manner that is likely to prompt discussion around a number of pertinent social issues."

"Rather than the sanitised and glorified violence often depicted in popular mainstream productions, Out Of The Blue presents violence in a realistic manner."

"The random, unspectacular nature of violence is captured, as are the devastating repercussions it has for good, honest, real people."

Enemy At The Gates (DVD)

R15: Depicts graphic and realistic war scenes

This 2001 DVD is a war story based on actual events and characters, re-telling little-known history to Western audiences. It was a big-budget production that made extensive use of special effects to graphically depict the tragic and bloody reality of warfare for soldiers and civilians, whether in broad scale battles involving hundreds or in individual sniping. The drama and tension is built around two snipers' hunt for one another, and in which war is ultimately portrayed as ugly and sad. The Classification Office noted that Enemy At The Gates had "some merit and value in relation to social, historical and educational matters... and soberly brings the brutal, grimy reality of total war to viewers that are now two generations removed from that time."

The Pianist (film and DVD)

R15: Violence and content that may disturb

This 2003 film is a harrowing true story of one man's courage and determination to stay alive during the brutal occupation of Poland during World War II. The Classification Office determined that the film had significant social and educational merit and value (especially for secondary school students) because it provided a "frank and at times, horrifying look into the brutalities and injustices that were inflicted upon the Jewish population during the Holocaust in Poland."

R15 label
R15 classification label
Battle For Haditha DVD cover
Battle For Haditha
Out Of The Blue DVD cover
Out Of The Blue
Enemy At The Gates DVD cover
Enemy At The Gates
The Pianist movie poster
The Pianist