Story by: Jack Foley
IT may only open in the US today (Ash Wednesday), but Mel Gibson's
controversial The Passion of The Christ is said to be riddled
with historical errors, according to scholars.
Complaints range from inaccuracies about hairstyles and clothes,
to a lack of gospel context, while the use of Aramaic and Latin
was questioned by those who thought Greek was the main language
spoken at the time.
Gibson maintains he consulted scholars, priests, theologians
and spirital writers before scripting the film, and continues
to insist he has faithfully portrayed the Bible's account.
But anthropologist, Joe Zias, went on to question the portrayal
of Jesus with long hair, noting: "Jewish men, back in antiquity,
did not have long hair."
While John Dominic Crossan, a professor of religious studies
at the De Paul University in Chicago, described the movie's 'basic
flaw' as the lack of historical context.
Other experts have criticised the depiction of Pontius Pilate,
Jesus' crucifixion, and even his wearing of a loin cloth.
But the director, who has thus far taken the criticisms in his
stride, will be pleased with the reaction from viewers, who have
given it the thumbs up, from early screenings.
The BBC, for instance, quotes a member of the St John Cantius
Society, in Chicago, Brother Chad, as describing it as 'a very
powerful movie', adding that: "Gibson portrays everything
very well. He's done a great service to the world."
But the positive reaction hasn't stopped the US Conference of
Catholic Bishops from publishing a 128-page document reaffirming
its objections to the movie.
Or the Anti-Defamation League accusing Gibson's vision of threatening
'to undo four decades of positive Catholic-Jewish relations'.
And, in a further development, the director himself, has finally
spoken out at what he describes as the 'demented bigots' who are
determined to 'persecute' him.
Responding to the continued claim of anti-Semitism, the director
claimed that he has been 'subjected to religious persecution as
an artist, as an American and as a man'.
" I forgive them all. But enough is enough," he maintained.
"We will always have demented bigots around. But I don't
believe that we can let those people dictate how we live, how
we believe, how we make art.
"They're trying to make me into some kind of wacko. All
I do is go and pray. For myself. For my family. For the whole
world. That's what I do," he is quoted as saying in an article
on movie website, IMDB.com
US critics are so far divided over the merits of Mel Gibson's
For every positive reaction, there was generally a negative to
Of the positives, Rolling Stone declared that 'The Passion
of the Christ is powerfully moving and fanatically obtuse in equal
While the New York Post found it 'an impressive, ultra-violent
- and deeply troubling - take on Jesus' final hours'.
Ebert and Roeper wrote that 'this is the most powerful,
important and by far the most graphic interpretation of Christ's
final hours ever put on film'.
And the Miami Herald opined that 'The Passion doesn't
suffer from the airless, pious airs that drag down most biblical
dramas: It has a muscular, pounding energy and lyrical, almost
Of the negatives, however, the Hollywood Reporter wrote
that 'this graphic depiction of the crucifixion of Christ misses
any spiritual meaning to this seismic event'.
While the New York Times felt that 'The Passion of the
Christ is so relentlessly focused on the savagery of Jesus' final
hours that this film seems to arise less from love than from wrath,
and to succeed more in assaulting the spirit than in uplifting
Newsday, meanwhile, noted that 'Mel Gibson shows once
again that he's skilled at depicting violence. But you'd be hard
pressed to find evidence of 'tolerance, love and forgiveness'
that the producer-director-co-writer insists he's trying to communicate'.
And the Los Angeles Times felt that it is 'a film so narrowly
focused as to be inaccessible for all but the devout'.
The Chicago Tribune, meanwhile, noted that, 'in the end,
one can respect Gibson's high intentions and dedicated work, while
remaining spiritually and dramatically unmoved by the result'.
And the Los Angeles Daily News remarked that it's 'as
if Gibson is measuring God's love by the amount of blood he shows
on the screen'.
However, the final word, for now, goes to Filmcritic.com,
which concluded that it is 'an unquestionable work of conviction
that should outlast the controversy and trigger constructive dialogue
for years to come'.
The Passion of The Christ opens in UK cinemas in March.