David Tennant as DI Alec Hardy and Olivia Coleman as DS Ellie Miller in Broadchurch. Photo: ITV
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It’s a miracle: the new Broadchurch avoided all the usual pitfalls of a sequel

It looks like the second series of ITV’s popular thriller is going to be far more interesting than we can usually expect from such a highly-anticipated follow-up.

Please note: spoilers for series one and two of Broadchurch

When I heard that there was going to be a second series of Broadchurch, my heart sank. Part of what made the first series of Chris Chibnall’s Dorset-based thriller such a success was its sense of containment – physically, in the form of the titular town’s isolated coastal location, and psychologically as its inhabitants found themselves trapped by their own history and connections. It was only after the horror had been revealed that the town could be linked with the rest of the world again, a reconnection that was given powerful visual representation in a final scene where a string of coastal beacons were lit in memory of the town’s murdered child. There wasn’t a sense of closure exactly, but a certain feeling of resolution. It was the end of a chapter.

Of course, it makes complete sense that ITV would want more episodes of the drama that made many viewers (including me) reappraise it as a potential purveyor of quality drama for the first time in about a decade. This is, after all, the channel that has kept commissioning Julian Fellowes to make episodes of Downton Abbey long after the characters, plot or dialogue ceased to make any sense whatsoever. But Broadchurch? A second series, and presumably a second major murder investigation in the same small town, would surely immediately peg the programme as “Midsomer Murders-on-Sea”, and destroy any possibility of recapturing the gripping tension that had been so successfully created in the first instalment.

Thankfully, Chibnall and his team seem, so far, to have resisted the easy options and avoided the glaring traps. The first episode of the second series, aired last night, moved us on in time but did not abandon the characters and plot we are familiar with. We rejoined the Latimer familiar and their neighbours at the pre-trial hearing of the man they (and we) believe murdered their son Danny. The grief is still raw and many characters seem still unsure of the full story that we, as viewers, were privy to.

The passing of time was slipped in everywhere. We saw Olivia Coleman’s character tell her therapist that she no longer fantasised about beating her husband (who we saw only in prison or in the dock) to death with a hammer quite as much. A romance seems to have developed between Arthur Darvill’s right-on vicar and the Australian hotel proprietor. The pregnancy that Danny’s mother discovered during the investigation is now nearly full term.

Not everything was quite so smoothly constructed, it’s true. The police don’t exhume bodies in broad daylight or in such a way that the family can march up and see it happening. It’s not particularly probable that a police officer could run an off-the-books witness protection programme for someone connected with a highly-publicised and controversial case without being discovered. But who wants probability from a thriller? Crucially, with this first episode, we’ve been reassured that Broadchurch isn’t about to become the Dorset branch of the CSI franchise – a repetitive procedural with a new corpse washing up on the beach every week. This town still has secrets to reveal.

Caroline Crampton is web editor of the New Statesman.

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The filmmaker forcing the British Board of Film Classification to watch Paint Drying for hours on end

The film does what it says on the tin.

Would you watch paint dry for several hours? If you work for the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), you might not have much choice in the matter. As a protest against problems he sees within the organisation, British filmmaker and journalist Charlie Lyne has launched a Kickstarter to send the BBFC a film he’s made called Paint Drying. It does what it says on the tin: the film is a single, unbroken shot lasting several hours (its length is determined by the amount of money raised) of white paint slowly drying on a brick wall. Once Lyne has paid the fee, the board are obliged to watch it.

“I’ve been fascinated by the BBFC – and censorship in general – for ages, but it was only when I went to a BBFC open day earlier this year that I felt properly frustrated by the whole thing,” Lyne told me. “There was a lot of discussion that day about individual decisions the board had made, and whether they were correct, but no discussions whatsoever about whether the BBFC should have the kind of power it has in the first place.”

The 2003 Licencing Act imposes the following rules on cinemas in the UK: cinemas need licenses to screen films, which are granted by local authorities to the cinemas in their area. These licences include a condition requiring the admission of children to any film to normally be restricted in accordance with BBFC age ratings. This means that in order to be shown easily in cinemas across the country, films need an age rating certificate from the BBFC. This is where, for Lyne, problems begin: a certificate costs around £1,000 for a feature film of average length, which, he says, “can prove prohibitively expensive” for many independent filmmakers.

It’s a tricky point, because even Lyne acknowledges on his blog that “this is actually a very reasonable fee for the services rendered”. The BBFC pointed out to me that its income is “derived solely from the fees it charges for its services”. So is the main issue the cost, or the role he feels the BBFC play in censorship? The Kickstarter page points out that the BBFC's origins are hardly liberal on that front:

The British Board of Film Classification (previously known as the British Board of Film Censors) was established in 1912 to ensure films remained free of 'indecorous dancing', 'references to controversial politics' and 'men and women in bed together', amongst other perceived indiscretions. 

Today, it continues to censor and in some cases ban films, while UK law ensures that, in effect, a film cannot be released in British cinemas without a BBFC certificate.

It might be true “in effect”, but this is not a legal fact. The 2003 Licensing Act states, “in particular circumstances, the local authority can place their own restrictions on a film. Film distributors can always ask a local authority for a certificate for a film banned by the BBFC, or a local category for a film that the BBFC has not classified.” The BBFC point out that “film makers wishing to show their films at cinemas in the UK without a BBFC certificate may do so with permission from the local authority for the area in which the cinema is located.” There you have it – the BBFC does not have the absolute final word on what can be shown at your local Odeon.

While the BBFC cannot officially stop cinemas from showing films, they can refuse to categorise them in any category: something Lyne says mostly happens with “quite extreme horror films and pornography, especially feminist pornography made by people like Petra Joy and Pandora Blake, but it could just as easily be your favourite movie, or mine.” This makes large-scale release particularly difficult, as each individiual local authority would have to take the time and resources to overrule the decision. This means that, to get screened easily in cinemas, a film essentially needs a BBFC-approved rating. Lyne adds, “I think films should also be allowed to be released unrated, as they are in the US, so that independent filmmakers with no money and producers of niche, extreme content aren’t at the mercy of such an expensive, censorial system.”

Does he think Paint Drying can make that a possibility? “I realise this one small project isn’t going to completely revolutionise British film censorship or anything, but I hope it at least gets people debating the issue. The BBFC has been going for a hundred years, so it’s got tradition on its side, but I think it's important to remember how outraged we’d all be if an organisation came along tomorrow and wanted to censor literature, or music. There's no reason film should be any different.”

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.