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Gibson favors gore over drama [Phila. Inquirer gives Passion 2-star review]
2/24/2004 | Carrie Rickey

Posted on 02/25/2004 5:03:14 AM PST by foreverfree

Gibson favors gore over drama

Carrie Rickey

Philadelphia Inquirer

Published: Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Even for the faithful, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is too much Good Friday and not enough Easter Sunday. Emphasizing Jesus' agony over His ecstasy, Gibson has delivered a blood-drenched epic more stunning for its brutal violence than for its depiction of the calvary. This work of obvious devotion may well be the first spiritual splatter film. It makes Gladiator and Braveheart - even Friday the 13th - seem mild by comparison.

Consumed by the unrelenting flaying and flogging suffered by Jesus in His final hours, Gibson invites us to empathize with the Nazarene's physical, if not His spiritual, anguish. For the filmmaker, whose Braveheart contains excruciating sequences of impalement and a heart ripped from a live man's chest, the physical is spiritual.

We see what we are. We bring our own experiences and values to the movies. I am a Jew. Going into The Passion, I worried that it might rekindle anti-Semitism by recycling discredited interpretations of the Hebrew high priests' roles in the crucifixion. While the film does trade in such imagery, for me, it makes a larger point about how those in charge of a faith can compromise or betray it, a charge that can be made not only of the Hebrew Pharisees but of those in the contemporary Catholic Church who protected priests accused of sexual abuse.

Far more offensive than the film's indictment of the Jews is the extreme sadism of the Roman centurions whose relish in Jesus' torture and humiliation is both nauseating and shockingly fetishistic.

But I come to judge The Passion not for historical accuracy or theological slant but as a film drama. It is powerfully visual - cinematographer Caleb Deschanel's imagery has Giotto's painterly austerity, Caravaggio's celestial light shooting through the darkness of the soul, and the tidal rhythms of ritual. Yet The Passion is oddly undramatic and singularly uninspiring beyond a call to mortification of the flesh. While it will undoubtedly speak to the devoted, it is hard to see the film as a missionary tool.

Jim Caviezel's Jesus is a gaunt reproach to the well-fed Romans. In the film's precious few flashbacks, we get glimmers of His charisma and His simple eloquence, but these moments are insufficient for Caviezel to create a character more substantial than the Roman whipping boy.

With the exceptions of Mary, played by the mournful Maia Morgenstern, and Pontius Pilate, played by the compelling Hristo Naumov Shopov in Hamlet fashion (to crucify, or not to crucify?), the film lacks the psychology and conflict that are basic to drama. Morgenstern and Shopov are given enough camera time to connect emotionally with their audience. Eyes brimming with empathy and horror, Morgenstern, like the greatest silent-movie actors, is wrenching in her urgency of emotion. If she is the heart of Gibson's film, Shopov is its tormented soul, measuring the human consequences of his political decision. Too little of the movie is about such emotion, too much is about degrading spectacle.

Gibson takes his audience on a forced march from Gethsemane to Golgotha in order for it to see and feel every lashing. Viewers also see the nails driven into Jesus' hands and hear His bones splinter. The puzzling choice of Gibson and co-screenwriter Benedict Fitzgerald (who 25 years ago adapted the superlative Wise Blood) to emphasize physical rather than psychological torment would be as if Gibson's Braveheart focused on battlefield viscera rather than the spirit of the mission.

The subtitled Passion avoids the kitsch piety of Hollywood biblicals where the Romans speak with English accents and the Jews with American inflections, and the dwellings look like something one might encounter in Beverly Hills. In Gibson's film, the sets have the sandblasted authenticity of Jerusalem stone and the Romans speak in Latin, the Jews in Aramaic and Hebrew. Alas, Caviezel's phonetic pronunciation of Jesus' inspirational words undermines their lyricism. And for most of the film his face and body are so caked with blood and dirt that Caviezel cannot use his physical instrument to play the music of the soul.

At its worst, this story of the price of redemption places an inexplicably high value on pain.

Who would have guessed that Gibson would turn The Greatest Story Ever Told into the grisliest?

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For more stories on "The Passion of the Christ" and its director, go to http://go.philly.com/passion.

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events; US: Pennsylvania
KEYWORDS: thegoodlord; thepassion
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Ms. Rickey is apparently a non-Messianic Jew. Each FReeper can draw his or her own conclusions about that.

foreverfree

1 posted on 02/25/2004 5:03:15 AM PST by foreverfree
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To: foreverfree
uh crucifixion WAS a burtal, gory process. PASt performances have cleansed it up significantly. To show it for what it really was, is to reaffirm the suffering and the commitment that God made to us when he sent his son down - knowing what would happen.

the movie is a reaffirmation of faith, and we can gain more appreciation for what Jesus endured only if we see it all, in all it's bloody detail.
2 posted on 02/25/2004 5:08:08 AM PST by camle (keep your mind open and somebody will fill it with something for you))
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To: foreverfree
The film needs more drama and suspense?

Gimme a break!

The 'problem' is that she already knows the storyline of the movie and is disappointed Gibson didn't start making things up to keep her interest.

Maybe Jesus should have been thrown to the lions in a coliseum instead of crucified just to keep her interest. Or how about an appearance by Forrest Gump?
3 posted on 02/25/2004 5:11:34 AM PST by 11th Earl of Mar
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To: foreverfree
a blood-drenched epic more stunning for its brutal violence than for its depiction of the calvary

"Calvary"?

4 posted on 02/25/2004 5:11:50 AM PST by Mr. Buzzcut
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To: foreverfree
Far more offensive than the film's indictment of the Jews is the extreme sadism of the Roman centurions whose relish in Jesus' torture and humiliation is both nauseating and shockingly fetishistic.

Someone needs to study up on the Romans a bit. For all their contributions to civilization, they were also a very brutal state. The word "decimation" comes from the punishment of a military unit that exhibited less than stalwart character in battle -- the soldiers were lined up and every tenth man was put to the sword. This was a people who found entertainment value in watching prisoners in chains mauled to death by wild animals. This was a culture that punished the revolt of Spartacus by crucifying 6000 men along the Via Appia as a warning to other slaves to keep in line.

I haven't seen the movie, but I very much doubt the filmed violence is worse than the reality of what the Romans were demonstrably capable of inflicting on fellow human beings.

5 posted on 02/25/2004 5:16:51 AM PST by RogueIsland
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To: foreverfree
She must have been wanting to see Moses drop the Ten Commandments.
6 posted on 02/25/2004 5:17:16 AM PST by BigSkyFreeper (Liberalism is Communism one drink at a time. - P.J. O'Rourke)
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To: 11th Earl of Mar
Maybe Jesus should have been thrown to the lions in a coliseum instead of crucified just to keep her interest.

This brings up the point of "why were the Italians not upset about movies like Galadiator, or Sparticus which portrayed Romans (now Italians) as bloodthirsty savages... It could have started race riots ya know?"

CNN Headline news actually had people interviewed on camera liking the film, but the reporter was positivly beaming when she told us (with no bias, of course) about those who disliked the film.

7 posted on 02/25/2004 5:17:42 AM PST by M1Tanker (Modern "progressive" liberalism is just NAZIism without the "twisted cross")
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To: camle
Too many churches have made Christ an effeminate icon, tender, forgiving, loving, and non-judgemental...too many churches have forgotten that God sent His Son to live in a brutal time, to die a brutal death...

Very few churches emphasize in sermon or song the commitment unto death that God asks from all of us...as a result, I think Christians (or CINOs) back down in the face of demonstrable evil--we have forgotten the example of perfect obedience to the will of God that Christ gave us. Some can't even stand up to social penalties for following His word, even fewer to economic penalties, fewer still to penalties of law...which is why you don't see very many bishops in jail for protesting abortion (I'm Catholic).

I think Mel Gibson's film is important for many reasons, but one of them is the example of Perfect Love, and Perfect Obedience.
8 posted on 02/25/2004 5:18:19 AM PST by Judith Anne (Is life a paradox? Well, yes and no...)
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To: foreverfree
IMHO, this quote by Dialup Llama from a thread about a week ago, sums up the critics' views:

"They loved Jesus when he was a clown (Godspell). They went crazy over Him as rock star (Jesus Christ Superstar). When Jesus was portrayed as having an affair with Mary Magdelene (Last Temptation) or as a homosexual (Corpus Christie), the liberal theologians did not object, but took it as an opportunity to explore the misnamed 'historical Jesus.' They cannot stand Jesus as savior. The crucified person is too much for them. They would much prefer the affable teller of parables."

9 posted on 02/25/2004 5:18:45 AM PST by dawn53
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To: M1Tanker
The Italians should also be protesting the Passion, since it portrays ROMAN soldiers as the actual killers of Christ.
10 posted on 02/25/2004 5:20:38 AM PST by 11th Earl of Mar
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To: foreverfree
So the Patriot was too idealistic, showed kids fireing guns.

Saving Private Ryan was gorry but ok.

The new texas chainsaw massacer was gory but funny?

This is not the greatest story ever told, it is the greatest gift ever given.

Some people really hate the message AND the messenger.

(hey mr. reviewer, lighten up. Its a movie.)
11 posted on 02/25/2004 5:22:21 AM PST by longtermmemmory (Vote!)
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Here's a 4-star review from Roger Ebert.
12 posted on 02/25/2004 5:24:20 AM PST by BigSkyFreeper (Liberalism is Communism one drink at a time. - P.J. O'Rourke)
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To: foreverfree
Even for the faithful, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is too much Good Friday and not enough Easter Sunday.

I stopped reading after that sentence.

13 posted on 02/25/2004 5:24:47 AM PST by new cruelty
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To: foreverfree
They would prefer that Jesus said, "Dad, I've become a Democrat", and have everybody live happily ever after. IMO, Armageddon would have been instantaneous...
14 posted on 02/25/2004 5:27:20 AM PST by trebb (Ain't God good . . .)
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To: foreverfree
Friday the 13th - seem mild by comparison.

Amazing, he can not tell the major difference between the two. Get a clue, one is evil the other is good.

15 posted on 02/25/2004 5:27:33 AM PST by mware
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To: foreverfree
Gibson favors gore over drama

The anti-semitism pitch did little to stop this film, so now they are switching to the violence pitch.

16 posted on 02/25/2004 5:28:29 AM PST by CharacterCounts
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To: CharacterCounts
They're also using the argument that terrorists will exploit the film that Jews are the real killers.
17 posted on 02/25/2004 5:29:57 AM PST by BigSkyFreeper (Liberalism is Communism one drink at a time. - P.J. O'Rourke)
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To: foreverfree
Another case of "what's new"? In a medium dominated by the once "persecuted" and currently downtrodden perverts, why is this a surprise? Anything religion-related has to be attacked.

A classic case of "if you need to ask, no explanation is possible".
Gheeez!

Just don't go see it. Stick to queer eye for the straight guy..."

18 posted on 02/25/2004 5:30:16 AM PST by Publius6961 (40% of Californians are as dumb as a sack of rocks.)
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To: RogueIsland
Someone needs to study up on the Romans a bit.

Don't have to study much just look at what they used for entertainment for over a 100 years THE GAMES
19 posted on 02/25/2004 5:31:48 AM PST by uncbob
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To: BigSkyFreeper
That review deserves its own thread.
20 posted on 02/25/2004 5:32:24 AM PST by longtermmemmory (Vote!)
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To: new cruelty
I managed to make it all the way through. The author clearly misses the point of the movie. Why does she think it has the title it does? Best guess - she is one of the ones out there protesting that as soon as the movie opens, pogroms will occur all over America.
21 posted on 02/25/2004 5:32:29 AM PST by 17th Miss Regt
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To: foreverfree
This work of obvious devotion may well be the first spiritual splatter film.

What was she expecting, Scripture Lite? I haven't seen the film but the reputable reviews I've read--even those critical of the movie--assert that the violence is historically accurate.

22 posted on 02/25/2004 5:32:52 AM PST by grellis (Che cosa ha mangiato?)
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To: Judith Anne
I think Mel Gibson's film is important for many reasons, but one of them is the example of Perfect Love, and Perfect Obedience.

Amen, I have seen the movie and one very important scene is Jesus saying how He is laying down His life, no one is taking it.

He does it because of His Perfect Love for us and His perfect obedience to the Father

The violence is necessary to show the magnitude of both

No one seems to mention the Resurrection at the end.
It was shown in a way never seen on film, brief but amazing joyful

Also I am Italian and I am not offended by the depiction of the Roman guards.
Rome was very brutal in its treatment of prisoners.

23 posted on 02/25/2004 5:33:47 AM PST by apackof2 (I won't be satisfied until I am too smart for my own good)
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Comment #24 Removed by Moderator

To: foreverfree
The Passion of the Christ is too much Good Friday and not enough Easter Sunday.

Reviewer has a good point here

The main fact about Christ's life was his RESURRECTION which was the final proof of his divinity

This should have been the HAPPY ending and main thrust of the movie as it also is supposed to portend the reurrection of human kinds bodies for the final judegment etc etc
If Gibson left this out then I think he has some subliminal preoccupation with blood and gore
25 posted on 02/25/2004 5:36:34 AM PST by uncbob
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To: foreverfree
If this film were about the murder of Matthew Shepherd, and done in EXACTLY the same way, the reviewer would hardly be able to type his review for the throes of multiple orgasms coursing through him.

It would be the greatest movie ever, mankind's ultimate artistic achievement, worthy of every Oscar.
26 posted on 02/25/2004 5:36:59 AM PST by Skooz (My Biography: Psalm 40:1-3)
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To: 11th Earl of Mar
Most Italians don't engage in the silly behavior many other groups do in this respect. That is why it is only a very few who protest the Godfather, the Sopranos, Etc. Most Italians, when faced with this type of idiocy, simply remind others about the positive contributions that need no deep explanation. Other groups, which I will not name, don't do that and simply whine, moan, complain, and act like little babies.
27 posted on 02/25/2004 5:37:21 AM PST by chris1
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To: foreverfree
At its worst, this story of the price of redemption places an inexplicably high value on pain. Who would have guessed that Gibson would turn The Greatest Story Ever Told into the grisliest?

Isn't this exactly the point Gibson may have been trying to make? Aren't we asked to simply watch what He endured for us???

28 posted on 02/25/2004 5:37:30 AM PST by grellis (Che cosa ha mangiato?)
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To: foreverfree
[Phila. Inquirer gives Passion 2-star review]

And you REALLY expected anything else???

29 posted on 02/25/2004 5:39:01 AM PST by NordP (While our nation is at war w/ worldwide terrorism, the democrat party is at war w/ the President.)
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To: Skooz
If this film were about the murder of Matthew Shepherd, and done in EXACTLY the same way, the reviewer would hardly be able to type his review for the throes of multiple orgasms coursing through him.

Yeah and all the reviewers thought SILENCE OF THE LAMBS was a big hit
I thought it was mindless gore
30 posted on 02/25/2004 5:40:34 AM PST by uncbob
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To: Skooz
Well, yeah, take "Saving Private Ryan," for example.
31 posted on 02/25/2004 5:40:44 AM PST by NordP (While our nation is at war w/ worldwide terrorism, the democrat party is at war w/ the President.)
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To: NordP
I love Saving Private Ryan and have the DVD. My wife can't stand to watch it because of the violence. We are going to see The Passion this Friday night. I wonder if she will be able to sit through it.
32 posted on 02/25/2004 5:42:51 AM PST by Skooz (My Biography: Psalm 40:1-3)
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To: foreverfree
"...recycling discredited interpretations of the Hebrew high priests' roles in the crucifixion." Huh? Discredited by whom? It's quite clear in the New Testament what roles the priests played.
33 posted on 02/25/2004 5:45:29 AM PST by HopeSprings
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To: camle
The reviewer doesn't seem to know that the meaning of "Passion" means SUFFERING. The suffering of the Christ is the focus of the movie, so to be accurate as to Christ's suffering, the gore is a necessary part of the movie.
34 posted on 02/25/2004 5:47:33 AM PST by Carolinamom
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To: Skooz
Tell her to do what I intend to do....watch through her fingers and plug her ears. Scary visuals don't have as much of an impact if the sound is down.

It's important to see.

35 posted on 02/25/2004 5:49:03 AM PST by NordP (While our nation is at war w/ worldwide terrorism, the democrat party is at war w/ the President.)
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To: HopeSprings
The interpretations are "discredited" because she doesn't like them.
36 posted on 02/25/2004 5:50:18 AM PST by Skooz (My Biography: Psalm 40:1-3)
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To: 11th Earl of Mar
...it portrays ROMAN soldiers as the actual killers of Christ.

They did it at the behest of the Jews. Jesus was charged with blasphemy, which was not a crime under Roman law. Blasphemy was punishable by death under Jewish law; the Jews asked the Romans to carry out the sentence for them.

Jesus was killed by the Romans,
at the request of the Jews,
on behalf all of mankind.

37 posted on 02/25/2004 5:57:57 AM PST by wai-ming
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To: wai-ming
So if you pressured me to kill your wife because she violated your religion [as the Jews pressured the Romans to kill Jesus] that would make me less of a killer?

38 posted on 02/25/2004 6:03:23 AM PST by 11th Earl of Mar
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To: apackof2
The violence is necessary to show the magnitude of both

In addition, Christ's suffering joins Him to the suffering of all humanity...throughout the ages humans have died in degrading, humiliating ways from all causes, natural and murderous...the suffering of Christ means that He can say, to anyone, "I share your pain." We have a Savior, not only on a sunny day, but in the agony of our own end, whatever it may be.

39 posted on 02/25/2004 6:04:58 AM PST by Judith Anne (Is life a paradox? Well, yes and no...)
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To: NordP
I'm not surprised at all by Rickey's review. She did give THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST four stars, calling it "audacious". She's probably not interested in a film that details the truth about Our Lord.

One giant surprise-the local liberal rag, THE PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY, gave THE PASSION a rave review! The reviewer mentioned "his lapsed Irish Catholic Baggage", said how much he cried while watching the film, and said the message of the film is love. He also said that years from now, when the furor has died down, this film will be recognized for the masterpiece that it is.

40 posted on 02/25/2004 6:14:05 AM PST by Clintons a commie
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To: foreverfree
Ok. Gibson makes a film that emphasises the physical torment. Let him or someone else make another film that expresses the spiritual torment. Sheesh, these guys are nitpicking.
41 posted on 02/25/2004 6:27:50 AM PST by Cronos (W2K4!)
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To: RogueIsland
Someone needs to study up on the Romans a bit. For all their contributions to civilization, they were also a very brutal state

That's true. Caesar carried out a genocide of the Gauls when he invade Gaul. Earlier, after the Second Punic war ended in a truce, the Romans reneged and attacked Carthage in the third Punic war. THey slaughtered everyone and sold the women and children into slavery. Then they leveled the city and plowed salt in furrows into the land so nothing would ever grow again. They destroyed it utterly and totally
42 posted on 02/25/2004 6:34:03 AM PST by Cronos (W2K4!)
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To: M1Tanker
I hated Gladiator because it distorted history -- it did NOT present facts. Like Commodius dying after a few months on the throne when he actually was Princep for 12 years.
43 posted on 02/25/2004 6:41:58 AM PST by Cronos (W2K4!)
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To: Clintons a commie
I'm not surprised at all by Rickey's review. She did give THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST four stars, calling it "audacious". She's probably not interested in a film that details the truth about Our Lord.

Nuff said. Anything she says about the Passion is junk.
44 posted on 02/25/2004 6:43:29 AM PST by Cronos (W2K4!)
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To: foreverfree
Braveheart contains excruciating sequences of impalement and a heart ripped from a live man's chest

Where is this heart business in Braveheart? I don't recall it.

45 posted on 02/25/2004 6:49:55 AM PST by Sloth (We cannot defeat foreign enemies of the Constitution if we yield to the domestic ones.)
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To: 11th Earl of Mar
Actually, he does start making things up. The Satan character stalking Jesus throughout. The demons tormenting Judas. The pillow talk betwee Pilate and his wife. Veronica wiping Jesus' brow.
46 posted on 02/25/2004 6:57:25 AM PST by lugsoul (And I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin on the mountainside.)
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To: 11th Earl of Mar
Good point.
47 posted on 02/25/2004 6:58:22 AM PST by M1Tanker (Modern "progressive" liberalism is just NAZIism without the "twisted cross")
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To: 17th Miss Regt
The author clearly misses the point of the movie.

More than that, she assumes everyone misses the point by proclaiming "Even for the faithful...".

So much from one sentence. : )

48 posted on 02/25/2004 8:44:41 AM PST by new cruelty
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To: new cruelty
More than that, she assumes everyone misses the point

Breathtaking arrogance, isn't it?

49 posted on 02/25/2004 10:00:27 AM PST by 17th Miss Regt
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To: 11th Earl of Mar
So if you pressured me to kill your wife because she violated your religion [as the Jews pressured the Romans to kill Jesus] that would make me less of a killer

No. But if I commissioned you to kill my wife, I wouldn't be guiltless either.

The Romans "executioners" killed people on a regular basis. To them, Jesus was just another name on the list. The Jews wanted him killed because he called himself the Son of God, and that was an affront to their beliefs at the time.

50 posted on 02/25/2004 4:57:30 PM PST by wai-ming
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