McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–Undertake the ambitious task of shooting a film that concentrates on the last few hours in the life of a history-altering religious figure, as accurately as possible, and you might anticipate kudos from Hollywood’s elite. Do so entirely in the dominant languages of the period without subtitles and you might expect to hear critics using the term “groundbreaking” and “genius” in the same breath.
Attempt the aforementioned effort and overflowing adulation is yours, unless your subject is Jesus Christ. Just ask Mel Gibson.
The popular film star, best known for his dual role as actor/director in the movie “Braveheart” (for which he won an Oscar and Golden Globe for best director), is seeking to portray the last 12 hours in the life of Jesus Christ as accurately as possible. Gibson’s script is based entirely on gospel accounts of Christ’s ordeal that culminate in his crucifixion. In an effort to be historically accurate, he had all the dialogue translated into Aramaic and/or Latin. At this point he has no plan for subtitles. In an interview with ABC News, Gibson said, “For me, that’s more real, and hopefully I’ll be able to transcend language barriers with filmic storytelling.” The chosen title for the forthcoming film is “The Passion.”
If nothing else, Gibson’s new film is an innovative attempt to tell an epic story in a fresh way. The attempt at accuracy alone is novel considering the way Christ has been depicted by Hollywood in recent years. If Gibson’s subject were any figure other than Jesus Christ, he would probably be the talk of the filmmaking world. However, since he has chosen a subject that has become increasing controversial in our politically correct world — and is seeking to portray Christ in a positive light — his effort has garnered mostly silence and some interesting scrutiny.
Appearing on Fox News Channel’s “The O’Reilly Factor,” Gibson revealed that a reporter from a “reputable” but unnamed publication had been dispatched to “dig up dirt” on him. Asked if he believed there is a link between the investigation and his new film, he replied, “I think there is…. Whenever you take up a subject like this [Jesus Christ], it does bring out a lot of enemies.” Gibson added that his private life, his banking records, charities he supports, friends, business associates and family members — including his 85-year-old father — have all been scrutinized in this investigation.
Depict Christ as self-doubting, fallible and fallen as did Martin Scorsese in his 1988 film “The Last Temptation of Christ,” and you are the toast of Tinsel Town.
Portray Jesus as homosexual as does Terrance McNally in his play “Corpus Christi,” or in a jar of urine as did Andres Serrano in his 1989 work titled “Pi– Christ,” and critics will laud your bold imagination.
Give three college students a story about a fake witch, a hand-held camera, and let them run around in the woods cursing and shooting herky-jerky film footage — ala “The Blair Witch Project” — and you have introduced an innovation that will change the medium.
Depict Christ’s last 12 hours that culminate in his crucifixion and do so in ancient languages for the sake of authenticity and, at best, you will be ignored by media movers and shakers and at worst someone will try to discredit you.
It is interesting that someone would try to find something in Gibson’s past in an effort to somehow depict his effort in portraying Christ’s last hours as hypocritical. And if someone managed to dredge up some decades-old dirt, would it detract from the movie? The film is about Jesus Christ not Mel Gibson. “This is a movie about love, faith and forgiveness. He [Jesus] died for all mankind. He suffered for all of us. It’s time to get back to that basic message,” Gibson said of the film.
To date, there is no distributor for “The Passion.” A deranged, deluded or homosexual Christ has no problem being accepted, even embraced, by the media elite. However, a Jesus Christ beaten and bloody hanging on the cross with no editorial comment or social commentary — even if his words can’t be understood — is very challenging. Challenging enough for some to try to thwart its being placed in theaters, even if it means a personal attack on the director. Another reason to rethink, “Hooray for Hollywood!”
Boggs is pastor of Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore.