Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Christianity Today's Passion coverage

Christianity Today has now posted on-line more of the material from its latest issue, in which The Passion of the Christ is the cover-story. This interview was released on-line yesterday:

'Dude, That Was Graphic'
Mel Gibson talks about The Passion of The Christ
by David Neff and Jane Johnson Struck

In it Mel Gibson talks about the "spiritual warfare" involved in producing the film, from successful prayers for its success, to the technological problems in post-production. There is an interesting detail on the creative process and the adherence to Scripture:
Wow, the Scriptures are the Scriptures—I mean they're unchangeable, although many people try to change them. And I think that my first duty is to be as faithful as possible in telling the story so that it doesn't contradict the Scriptures.
Now, so long as it didn't do that, I felt that I had a pretty wide berth for artistic interpretation, and to fill in some of the spaces with logic, with imagination, with various other readings.

For example, Judas goes to kill himself and I had him being tormented by children. I made up the children idea and that they were somehow diabolical, so they weren't real children. And that he was on a hillside and he looked at a dead goat, and then he goes and kills himself, hangs himself with a halter. I thought, so where's he going to get the halter? Well wait a minute, it should be a dead donkey with a halter on. I mean there's nothing that said there was a dead donkey there, but why not? It just says he "hung himself with an halter" [Matt. 27:5, Douay].
Next, there's a "Behind the Scenes" insight from Holly McLure:

Behind the Scenes of The Passion
On the set with Holly McClure

McClure acted as a kind of consultant on the film and explains how she contributed to the depiction of Mary Magdalene:
. . . . . Two weeks later Mel called me and asked me what I thought. I told him it was brilliant, and that Christians would love it. He asked if I had any suggestions. And I did.

I saw a potential problem with Mary Magdalene. Mel had her in every scene with Mary (Jesus' mother) and John, but there was no scene to connect this woman to Jesus. I asked, "Is she his sister? His wife? A lover? You have to pretend like no one knows this story. You have to ask why this woman would follow Jesus so faithfully."

After a pause, Mel said, "You're right. I need a flashback to connect her relationship to him. I've been working on this script for almost nine years and no one has ever pointed that out to me."

I smiled and said, "Well maybe it takes a woman to see that Mary needs an introduction—and so people don't get the wrong idea. Maybe you could add a scene like the one where men are going to stone a woman and …" Mel jumped in excitedly and said, "Yeah, Jesus steps in and saves her, and I'll show the guys dropping the stones one by one and Mary looks up at Jesus!"
So it seems that the film perpetuates the identification of Mary Magdalene with the woman taken in adultery in John 8, which is in so many of the Jesus films and really milked in Last Temptation of Christ. So in spite of all the publicity Mary Magdalene has received in the popular media recently, her rehabilitation has been put on hold and the image of her as an adulterer and a prostitute looks set to be reaffirmed once again. Incidentally, the woman taken in adultery is played by a different actress from the one playing Mary Magdalene in The Gospel of John.

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