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The Passion of The Christ - Scholars find inaccuracies & US reaction filters in



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 reaction

US critics are so far divided over the merits of Mel Gibson's movie.

For every positive reaction, there was generally a negative to accompany it.

Of the positives, Rolling Stone declared that 'The Passion of the Christ is powerfully moving and fanatically obtuse in equal doses'.

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 gothic beauty'.

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 it'.

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.

 

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