Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Passion of the Christ round-up

It's time for another Passion of the Christ round up. The Guardian reports on its UK success:

Passion crowns UK box office
Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was the No 1 film at the UK box office this weekend with a haul of just over £2m in three days.

Many screenings were sold out, with churches, as expected, buying up seats through block bookings. The film's total of £2,019, 803 also marked the highest opening for a subtitled film on these shores, defeating incumbent Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
I must admit that it has surprised me. I haven't met many people who have been to see it and those who have have not liked it, but then few academics do like it. I'm unusual. Thanks to Helenann Hartley for a link to a similar story on BBC News here:

Passion wins zombie cinema battle

From here, I spotted a link I had previously missed to an article written by a former fellow-student from my Oxford days:

How faithful is Gibson's Passion?
by The Revd Dr Andrew Goddard
Tutor in Christian Ethics, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford
Far from inciting violence, the lurid portrayal of brutality - overwhelmingly at Roman hands - will hopefully re-sensitize us to its horrors.

At the very least we will question what we do to those who are different or who threaten us.
On Christianity Today, Frank Schaeffer explains why he is not going to see it -- he doesn't like the "celluloid Jesus":

Not This Easter, Mel
I haven't seen The Passion of The Christ, and I don't plan to. Here's why.
by Frank Schaeffer

Meanwhile on Christianity Today's weblog, a link to an extraordinary story from Norway:
They said The Passion of The Christ would provoke neo-Nazis, and they were right: in one case, it's provoking a neo-Nazi to confess to his sins and repent.

Johnny Olsen, whom the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten calls "one of Norway's most feared men," turned himself in to police on Saturday after watching the film.

"He said that it was the film that made him realize that he had to show his hand. He has been preoccupied with Christianity, guilt, punishment, atonement, suffering and conversion during the 10 years I have known him," Olsen's lawyer said. "It has been a long process but the Jesus film made the difference. Now he shows true regret and is ready to make amends."
The full story is here in Aftenposten Norway:

Confessed after seeing 'Passion'
Johnny Olsen, a notorious convicted killer and neo-Nazi, has confessed to two bombings in Oslo in the 90s. Olsen, 41, decided to purge his guilty conscience after viewing Mel Gibson's controversial film The Passion of the Christ, newspaper Dagbladet reports

Back to BBC news, thanks again to Helenann Hartley again for this one from Saturday:

Brothers seek French Passion ban
Three Jewish brothers have gone to court seeking a ban on Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ in France.
In opposing the release of the film, the Benlolos submitted pages of quotes from US movie reviews, which the judge said would not be accepted as evidence.
And the outcome? In Monday's BBC News:

Judge rejects French Passion ban
A judge in France has rejected a request by three Jewish brothers to ban Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.
Claims of anti-Semitism stemmed from "a narrow view" of the film, she said.

"To make the death of Jesus into the major motivation of anti-Semitism that leads to secular persecutions against Jews would stem from a narrow view of Mel Gibson's film," said Judge Lagemi following a private screening of the film.
Thanks to David Mackinder for this link to a very negative review in the most recent (April 8) New York Review of Books. The first half of the article is about The Passion of the Christ:

God in the Hands of Angry Sinners
By Garry Wills
My wife and I had to stop glancing furtively at each other for fear we would burst out laughing. It had gone beyond sadism into the comic surreal, like an apocalyptic version of Swinburne's The Whipping Papers.

Gaff of the day: I was speaking at a sixth form day school in Birmingham today on "The sacred text in Christianity". As is my wont at the moment, I began topically by commenting on The Passion of the Christ, asking how many of the 160 or so students present had seen the film yet. A few tentative hands went up and I was taken aback that so few had seen it. One of the teachers kindly took me to one side later on and reminded me that that all of those present were lower sixth, 16-17 years old, and The Passion of the Christ has an 18 certificate.

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