By DENNIS LIM
the second half of which turns to Verhoeven's oft talked-about desire to make a Jesus film (remember his involvement with the Jesus seminar, for example):
It is a firm belief of Mr. Verhoeven’s that nothing is sacred, and his next project will probably serve as ample demonstration. He is finishing a book on Jesus, to be published later this year. A self-described “non-Christian,” he has been involved since the mid-’80s with the Jesus Seminar, an association of Bible scholars devoted to investigating the historical authenticity of the words and deeds of Jesus.Well, if the film ever comes off, it should be fascinating.
Summarizing the contents of his monograph, Mr. Verhoeven said: “Thesis No. 1 is that Jesus was a man. That’s already a big thing, as opposed to what Christianity says, that he was the son of God.” The book will be based on a close reading of ancient texts, he said, “eliminating everything that’s not possible, in my opinion.” He added: “It’s impossible that Jesus would have multiplied all this bread, isn’t it? And the resurrection. All these things that are not possible are not possible.” . . .
. . . . Mr. Verhoeven said he hopes his Jesus book is the first step toward his dream project, a Jesus movie, one that he said would be like no other: “My hubris tells me it would be more normal and more real.” Dismissing “The Passion of the Christ” (“It’s just about torture”) and “The Last Temptation of Christ” (“Basically fictional”), he said the only such film he admired was Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Gospel According to St. Matthew”: “He gives it a Marxist spin, which made the Jesus more belligerent, much stronger, more like he really was, I think.”
He hastened to add that despite this confrontational stance, his Bible studies were motivated by an intellectual ardor. “I’m a big fan of Jesus,” he said. “I think Jesus was an extremely interesting, innovative, talented person, a theological genius, and as a poet, his parables are absolutely magnificent. He’s like Mozart.”
Mr. Verhoeven knows his approach is risky. “To do this movie in the U.S. might not be without personal danger,” he said. “The power of the screen is so enormous. That’s why I’m writing the book first. It gives me time to think if I want to get into hotter water than that.”