Date: 11th August 2003

Jesus film inspires outrage

It was no ordinary death, of course, and artists have traditionally been restrained in their treatment of the crucifixion out of respect for the divine.
But that's about to change with Mel Gibson's new hyper-realist Christ story, The Passion, as new images show.

Released seven months ahead of the film, they depict a brutal and bloody Calvary. Jesus is shown with stakes driven through his hands. He writhes on the ground, streaked in blood. A crown of thorns punctures his skin, whips tear the flesh from his back.

The gospels are the quintessential Christian family story. But The Passion, on the evidence of the sanguinary stills, is no friend of the family.

Gibson's treatment can be contrasted with Roman Polanski's restrained handling of the Holocaust horrors in his recent Academy Award-winner, The Pianist. Where Polanski was careful not to bloody the screen, Gibson splashes it red.

In the past month, Gibson has been trying to build support, and defuse criticism, after fears in the US that the film might stir anti-Semitic sentiment with its portrayal of a vengeful Jewish mob. The reception hasn't been aided by Gibson's father, Hutton, who was quoted in March this year denying the Holocaust.

The Passion was given an advance screening in Houston, Texas, on Friday to an invited audience that included an official from the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism. A spokesman for the league said afterwards: "We still have grave concerns."

Gibson told an interviewer earlier this year: "This film will show the passion of Jesus Christ just the way it happened. It's like travelling back in time and watching the events unfold exactly as they occurred."

A devout Catholic with a fondness for the Latin mass, Gibson financed the $25million project himself.

It was shot in the barren Matera district of southern Italy with a cast of actor-believers who shed, according to Gibson, "real tears" during the climactic scenes.

The result is a film that breaks new ground, and a 2000-year-old taboo, with a show-it-like-it-really-was depiction of Christ's agonies on the cross.

The Australian

Source: Press Release