STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Swedish film censors decided the hit movie 'E.T.' may cause 'mental injuries' to children under the age of 11, setting off a protest movement by kids demanding the right to see the flick.
'Censors are crazy,' complained Peter Svensson, who said he was on the kids' side.
'How could they ever ban a film like this?' Svensson said Thursday while waiting patiently outside a movie theater to see Steven Spielberg's highly acclaimed box office hit. About 500,000 viewers have stood in line for hours at a time to see 'E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial' since its Dec. 10 opening in Sweden.
The censors' main objections when they announced the age limit in July were the movie's threatening atmosphere when grown-ups enter the action and the long scene when E.T. dies.
They kept up the restriction despite pressure from Spielberg, who wanted the minimum viewing age lowered to 7 in Sweden.
The advisory Council of Children's Films, asked by the film censors to give its opinion of the movie, replied: 'The council's opinion is that the film 'E.T.' may cause mental injuries to children aged over 7 but under 11 years.'
Council Chairman Kersten Elmhorn said she found the film 'very strong and suggestive, extremely professional and well made.'
'A large part of the film is set in a threatening and frightening mood, which makes it unfit for 7-8 year old children,' said censorship director Gunnel Arrback in a newspaper interview late last year.
The issue of film censorship, continuously debated in Sweden, has come under renewed fire because of 'E.T.' One film researcher predicted the ban would be futile.
'Civil Service Departments alienating themselves from common sense of justice will always stimulate breach of laws,' wrote the film researcher Olle Sjogren in a highly critical article in the Stockholm newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
'Large numbers of 9- and 10-year olds will sneak past the movie attendants, with their parents as accomplices,' he wrote.
On the opening night in Stockholm a picket line of kids too young to see the film marched back and forth outside the theatre, brandishing posters saying 'We want to see E.T.'
Sentiment is not the same all over Scandinavia. Norway made the same decision as Sweden, banning the film for children under 12, but Finland set the age limit at 8 and Denmark at 7 years.