Skip to comments.Will a recut Passion still stir debate?
Posted on 03/11/2005 7:28:38 AM PST by Jaded
Will a recut Passion still stir debate? Film rereleased minus 6 minutes of worst gore
Last year's success of The Passion of the Christ foretold the red state-blue state electoral vote divide as the nation's culture wars played out at the box office.
Many movie goers described it as a sacred experience, but to others it was nothing more than a graceless horror flick. So it should come as no surprise that today's rerelease now billed as The Passion Recut, minus about six minutes of the goriest scenes but still too intense to qualify for a PG-13 rating has drawn little consensus.
This new version is expected to be at least a modest success, even an enduring staple of the Easter season. That is good news in some Christian quarters but more cause for worry to those concerned about its portrayal of Jews.
The original film earned more than $611 million after its release in February 2004, making it not only the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time but also a wake-up call about the collective purchasing power of the nation's believers. (The new version was released unrated, opening on about 950 screens nationwide; it will be at seven theaters in the Houston area.)
"I think, like any group that feels they're on the outside, when this film did so well, it did give them a sense of strength in numbers," said Michael Emerson, a professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame who studies evangelical religions.
For decades, devout Christians had lamented popular culture's movement away from their values, said Lynn Mitchell, professor of religious studies at the University of Houston.
The Passion gave them a place at the table.
"It finally got across to people in the blue states that religion is an important thing for Americans," Mitchell said. "And it's not just important for fundamentalists and evangelicals.
It's important for mainstream Americans and liberal Roman Catholics. So the dismissive way some people deal with these (religious) people is not going to get them very far."
Some churches bought blocks of tickets last year, following up with special sermons and discussion groups. But The Passion didn't succeed solely on its religious audience.
People also bought tickets on the strength of filmmaker Mel Gibson's reputation he is best-known for the Lethal Weapon series and anti-authoritarian films such as The Patriot. Others were curious about reports of the film's graphic nature and charges that its portrayal of Jews might lead to anti-Semitism.
"Gibson wasn't a victim in any of this," said S. Brent Plate, who teaches religion and the visual arts at Texas Christian University and edited a book on the movie's impact, Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson's Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, $14.95). "He knew what he was doing."
In a video statement on the film's Web site, www.thepassionofthechrist.com, Gibson said the cuts, most of them from the bloody scourging scene, were intended to make the film more accessible.
"I have softened it somewhat. It's still a hard film," he said.
The initial theater run drew a mix of fundamentalists, evangelicals and Catholics, along with curiosity seekers attracted by the publicity. (It also has been out on DVD since August, selling more than 4 million copies its first day in stores.) This time around, the audience is likely to be mostly Christian, Emerson said.
Newmarket Films Jim Caviezel portrays Christ in The Passion Recut, which will be shown at seven area theaters. The outcry that greeted last year's release is unlikely to be duplicated. "But there will be lots of people who will hire buses to take people to it again," Mitchell said. "It's a significant religious and cultural icon for Americans right now."
Charges of anti-Semitism Gibson spent $25 million from his own pocket to finance a movie that seemed destined for obscurity. In addition to the unrelenting violence, it was filmed in Aramaic and Latin, with subtitles, risky moves in a world where Shrek 2 and Spider-Man 2 were the year's top-grossing movies.
But The Passion ended up an improbable No. 3, and its popularity only adds to the concerns of some critics.
Sister Mary C. Boys, a professor at Columbia University's Union Theological Seminary, was one of four Catholic scholars asked by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to review an early version of the script. Publicity over their fears of an anti-Semitic backlash inadvertently helped promote the movie.
Even now, Boys worries "that we're going to have a whole generation of people who will grow up thinking this is how it went down, and that's how Jews are."
News reports suggest there has been an increase in anti-Semitism, both locally and worldwide, over the past year, although Martin Cominsky, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, says there is no proof the movie was behind it.
In fact, reported reaction ran more along the lines of the story of Dan Leach II, who, after being emotionally moved by The Passion, confessed to killing girlfriend Ashley Nicole Wilson in her Richmond apartment. The case had been ruled a suicide; Leach was later sentenced to 75 years in prison.
Historically, passion plays have sparked violence against Jews, most spectacularly when Hitler invoked the passion play enacted by the Bavarian village of Oberammergau after attending a 1934 performance.
That makes the movie's rerelease a concern, especially the idea that it may be released in theaters every Easter, Cominsky said. Add to that the fact that it's out on DVD. "It will be shown to young audiences that don't have the full perspective and understanding of the Jewish-Christian relations that have been going on for years and years," he said.
(Plans to release the recut version on DVD haven't been announced; it likely will happen later this year.)
On the other hand, the movie did get people talking. Plate noted that the Association for Jewish Studies had two sessions on The Passion at its annual meeting in December.
"Christians and Jews have been talking to each other for a long time," he said. "It set some of it back, but it also opened up new categories of discussion."
A message of redemption Controversy alone can't save a religious movie. Remember Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ?
The Passion succeeded because many people felt it reinforced their faith.
"Most everybody I talked to who went to the movie had their faith deepened," said the Rev. William Vanderbloemen, senior minister of Houston's First Presbyterian Church. "I think what it showed me was the simple old story that we tell every Easter is still the story that captures hearts here and now."
And in a way, the violence that prompted so much criticism was also behind its success.
"I think people were horrified, but also mystified that anyone would take that on," said Sister Madeleine Grace, chairwoman of the theology department at the University of St. Thomas.
The film is unbearably painful without the underlying message of a God who takes on suffering for his people, Grace said. "One has to look at the film in the light of Christian redemption," she said. "Otherwise, it's the most gruesome torture film that ever made it into the movies."
Hit the zeitgeist But the film also scored because it hit the zeitgeist.
"It worked because it touched on so many nerves and because it touched on a volatile religious environment in our society right now," Plate said. "The whole Bush election and the questions on the role of religion in a country founded on separation of religion and state. The film didn't address that, but with all the polarization going on, it fed into that.
"At first, I wanted to be a skeptic and just hate (the movie), and I did," he said. "But in the end, after talking to people, I realized there are a lot of people who just wanted to have these conversations."
"It is as it was." [shortened]
It was wonderful! I didn't mind the first release, however.
Preposterous sarcasm aside, the Passion was far and away the best movie of the last decade.
Catholic Ping - Come home for Easter and experience Gods merciful love. Please freepmail me if you want on/off this list
Don't be an asshole during lent. Catholics do not believe Mary is the savior and do not worship her. Veneration is not worship.
Let me guess. You believe that if you go, "Hey Jesus, you da man." just before you die then even a life as a serial killer magically is all gone. How quaint.
NJ Catholic priest was so appalled by Mel Gibson's "The Passion of The Christ'' that he described the film as "religious barbarism.'' "I saw it as religious barbarism ... in my opinion, God did not send his son to die,''
Personally, I am saddened that there is now this "lite" version of Our Lord's suffering and death out there. I'm glad I got my dvd of the original release. I'd rather watch it than see a "tamed" edition in the theater.
I agree. I'm surprised the new release was "toned" down.
It's not unlike what they did to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass after Vatican Council II.
Me too, but that's the only way alot of people will see it. The vast crowds who saw Kill Bill, Saving Private Ryan or some of the other movies and passed on The Passion because of the violence. The most popular excuse was "It couldn't have been that bad". According to the Original Version, the movie still doesn't adequately convey the actual events.
Uh, I am not Catholic, but I did attend a Catholic school and, because of that, I have been to Catholic mass. I know that Vatican Council II changed the way the church celebrated mass, but what, exactly, is "the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass," and how did it change after Vatican Council II? Just curious, as I had a very interesting "history of Christianity" class in college, and, while I am an agnostic, religious issues interest me.
"Uh, I am not Catholic, but I did attend a Catholic school and, because of that, I have been to Catholic mass. I know that Vatican Council II changed the way the church celebrated mass, but what, exactly, is "the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass," and how did it change after Vatican Council II?"