Sunday, April 04, 2004

Observer article on Matera

There's an interesting article in today's Observer on Matera, where location shooting for The Passion of the Christ took place:

Italy's cavemen cashing in on Passion of Mel
Sophie Arie discovers how a Hollywood religious blockbuster is raising the impoverished town of Matera from the dead
. . . . . . 'People seem shocked at the violence,' said Antonello Scazzariello, an 11-year-old spiky-haired boy who helped chase Judas in the film after he betrayed Christ. 'But when you've been on set, you see it differently. You know it's all fake.'

'There were 20 barrels of "blood" kept on hand in a cave,' said Rosario Gagliardi, a 42-year-old government official who played a disciple. 'When I saw them lash the Christ in the face with a whip, I didn't flinch because I knew it was made of wool.'

The extras laugh as they remember how, between each shoot, Caviezel's hair was rearranged and fresh blood applied from a squeezy bottle.

In fact, while the whippings, lacerated skin and nails through hands are all the masterful efforts of make-up artists, the Italian extras, paid 60 to 90 euros a day, appear to have endured greater physical suffering than the better-known figures in the biblical story.

Two in particular, who hung on crosses alongside Caviezel's double for hours, got so cold that gas burners and fans had to be set up to keep their goosepimples away.

Scazzariello, who had shoe polish and mud matted into his hair for a 'poor and dirty' effect, says he had to wash it 20 times with kitchen cleaner before it was clean.

Despite the physical inconvenience, most of the extras say they would happily play again. 'We got dirty. But the hardest thing was suppressing the giggles,' said Antonietta Scazzariello, who has played in six films in 25 years. 'There's no work,' she said. 'So it's a good thing people like making films here. At least I can earn a bit of cash that way.' . . . . .
The article also features a link to the web site of Matera, which has lots of pictures taken during the filming. One of the most interesting -- and one I have not seen before -- is a picture showing Mel Gibson positioning the nail in the palm of the Caviezel's hand. You will recall that it has been said that it is Gibson himself who symbolically hits the nails into Jesus' hands:

The Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson in Matera

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