Friday, March 26, 2004

Passion of the Christ UK release today

The Passion of the Christ is released in the UK today. The film has prompted a discussion on BBC Radio FiveLive this morning, underway as I write. Some other recent news, with thanks to Helenann Hartley:

Head to head: The Passion
Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ, which is out in the UK on Friday, has provoked major religious disputes over its message and accuracy. BBC News Online gets views from the editors of Jewish and Catholic publications in the UK.

The first view is given by Ned Temko, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, and it features the now standard (but I think misguided) claim about the violence in the film, "an orgy of violence", "sado-pornography" and so on. The second view is given by Josephine Siedlecka, editor of Independent Catholic News and claims that the film is not anti-Semitic, a view only occasionally heard in the media; this is what she writes:
Jesus and Mary were, and are in the movie, Jewish and the same goes for Jesus' 12 apostles.

Gibson's beautifully-drawn character of Simon of Cyrene, who helps Jesus carry the cross, is also Jewish.

While some high priests condemn Jesus, Gibson also shows others walking away saying his trial is a sham.

Many Romans are also depicted as sadistic brutes. The one consistently evil character is the Devil - an androgynous figure never far from the screen.

At the end, we see it defeated, although this could have been more clearly spelt out.
I think I disagree with the last statement -- the extraordinary shot after Jesus' death of the devil cast to the pit of hell is, for me, a high point of the film. But while I think it is not very helpful in this context to point to the fact that Jesus and the Twelve were Jewish, it is good at last to see someone pointing to the way that the character of Simon of Cyrene is drawn. When I went to view the film for a second time this week, I looked out carefully for Johannine style characterisations of "the Jews" of the kind that some critics have levelled against the film (e.g. Julia Neuberger) and there are none -- not even a hint. Indeed the only character specifically characterised as "Jew" -- and I know I have made this point before but it is worth making again -- is Simon of Cyrene, one of the most sympathetic characters in the film.

Passion prompts murder confession
A Texas man has been prompted by Mel Gibson's Passion film to confess he killed his girlfriend, a police spokesman has said.

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