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First UK review of Passion of The Christ



Story by: Jack Foley

THE first UK review of Mel Gibson’s The Passion of The Christ has labelled the film an incredibly violent affair, which could well provoke a backlash from the anti-violence lobby.

The film will be released in British cinemas on March 26, following its February 25 debut in the States, and has been hounded by controversy ever since director, Mel Gibson, announced his intention to film it in Latin and Aramaic.

Needless to say, critics are queuing up to see it, even though the chances of finding the film ‘entertaining’ seem remote, especially in light of the Daily Telegraph’s review.

The paper’s critic, John Hiscock, said there is ‘little respite’ from the violence, with graphic scenes of whippings and beatings being depicted in close-up, as Jesus' flesh is ‘torn and battered’, and the second half of the film is almost entirely devoted to the crucifixion.

There are flashbacks, to a time when Jesus worked as a carpenter, or lectured his disciples, but, according to Hiscock, such ‘respites are all too brief’.

His review can best be summarised by the line: "For, worthy and serious as Gibson's treatment may be, his blood-drenched depiction of the final hours of Jesus' life is harsh and brutal, dwelling almost entirely on pain, suffering and torment."

As such, the anti-violence brigade may take just as much interest in it as church officials and Jewish groups, the latter of whom have raised fears that it could provoke anti-Semitism.

Gibson, however, maintains that the film is not marketed towards children, and remains an accurate and honest depiction of the last 12 hours of Christ’s life - even though he has been forced to cut some of the most extreme moments because of the criticisms surrounding them.

Hiscock’s review also mentions a number of scenes in which Gibson employs ‘artistic licence’, including a nod to drunken Romans sharing a joke, and Judas being chased by children, before he decides to take his own life.

And he predicts that ‘adults are likely to have problems with the vivid depictions of pain and violence’, making it difficult to know who would want to see it.

He does conclude, however, by noting that American audiences seem more comfortable with violence than sex on screen, and believes the controversy surrounding it will help Gibson to recoup the personal millions he has spent on it.

l In yet more related news, lead actor, Jim Caviezel - whom Hiscock credits with giving an ‘impressive, dignified’ performance - has also leapt to the film’s defence, by stating that any attempt to label it as ‘anti-Semitic’ could not be further from the truth.

"He wanted to make this film very Semitic," he says, in an interview with Newsweek. "I believe that when all my Jewish brothers see this film, they will realise that it's not about assigning blame. It's about love. It's about sacrifice. It's about forgiveness and hope."

Caviezel spent 15 days filming the crucifixion scene and had to endure his own physical and spiritual ordeal, separating his shoulder during shooting and suffering from exposure.

But he claims the experience has deepened his faith, by helping him to connect ‘to a place I could have never, ever gone’.

He added: "I don't want people to see me. All I want them to see is Jesus Christ."

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