Story by: Jack Foley
MEL Gibsons film, The Passion of the Christ, about the
crucifixion of Christ, is continuing to court controversy, despite
still not having a distributor.
The film, which has generated a groundswell of interest over
the internet, particularly when a trailer was first released,
will not be shown to the Vatican early, as its director now feels
that the crucifixion scenes are too violent, and is in the process
of softening them.
Catholic leaders have long been at odds with the film, over concern
that it could damage relations with the Jewish community, while
Jewish groups fear it could portray Jews badly, as they are allegedly
seen to clamour for Christs death.
The film has already sparked an intense war of words over its
content, with some labelling it anti-Semitic, but Gibson has consistently
defended it from such claims, and maintains it is largely based
on the Gospels themselves.
The director, himself, is part of a strict Catholic group which
rejects the Vatican decrees.
His decision not to preview it to the Vatican, however, could
fuel the debate surrounding it, but also serves to keep the film
in the limelight as it continues its search for a US distributor.
But it could also prevent it from further bad press, given that
the Vatican has only ever given its blessing to one film version
of the biblical story - Pier Paulo Pasolini's no-frills retelling
of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew.
That said, a private screening of The Passion of Christ may be
shown for a small group of churchmen in January, according to
the director of the Vatican film archive, Enrique Planas.
The debate surrounding the film, meanwhile, can only help its
search for a US backer, especially in light of the continued support
it receives among internet fans.
A trailer, for instance, had to be taken down after five days
after being posted on several internet sites, because it created
so much traffic - 350,000 people in one day downloaded it from
Ain't It Cool News, for instance, when it first became available
earlier this year.
Bruce Davey, president of film company Icon, which made it, told
the Hollywood Reporter that people were passionate about
this film, while Aint It Cool editor, Harry Knowles,
said he had been forced to remove the trailer from his site because
the unprecedented level of interest had caused it to grind to
He went on to describe the trailer, however, as great,
the best I've seen this year, but added that it was probably
too graphic for audiences.
Incredibly, the film, which depicts the last 12 hours of Christs
life, has been filmed with dialogue in Latin, Hebrew and Aramaic,
and is still viewed as a risky venture for any major film studio
to get involved with.
Several independent film distributors have, apparently, made
offers to buy the film or requested to see it, with Newmarket,
which released cult hit, Memento, a favourite to land it, according
to a report in Newsweek.
Of the major studios, Twentieth Century Fox, which has a first-look
deal with Icon, has officially turned it down.