Friday, April 16, 2010

Telling It Like It Is

Jesuit Scholastic Nathan O'Halloran at Whosoever Desires blog has written his thoughts on Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. In a post entitled, Some Cautions While Watching "The Passion of the Christ"

Here is an excerpt of where O'Halloran kind of likes the movie.
I realize that many will be watching Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ throughout this week.  I myself have been showing parts of it to my students. So I am not opposed to watching it.
Here is an except where O'Halloran criticizes extra biblical additions to The Passion of the Christ. 
Gibson adds to the movie from the Gospels, though subtle, is important.  For example, Satan is often seen flitting behind the high priest and other priests of the council.  The implication seems clear: Satan is directing their actions. The demon children run Judas to his death.  Neither of these are in the Gospels.  The implication is that most of the Jewish people in Jerusalem were in on this (except for Mary and John). and were excessively cruel.

O'Halloran then goes into the directional choices of Gibson.
To ignore interpretation in dramatizations can lead to distortions of the real meanings of these carefully crafted narratives. There are also differences between the narratives.  His directorial moves reveal his choices.  We must simply be aware of this and keep in mind that he chooses to highlight certain ways of looking at the Passion story and chooses to downplay others. 
On Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich.
It is helpful to keep in mind that alongside the Gospels, Gibson was using the private revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich.  An example of some of her more anti-Semitic writings,
"I perceived the yawning abyss of hell like a fiery meteor at the feet of Caiaphas; it was filled with horrible devils; a slight gauze alone appeared to separate him from its dark flames. I could see the demoniacal fury with which his heart was overflowing, and the whole house looked to me like hell."
O'Halloran concludes with this statement.
To keep in mind while watching the film.  Again, this is not to say do not watch.  I find parts of it to be edifying.  But we need to be careful what we get out of it.  To think of it as a film that “tells it like it was” is dangerous and inaccurate.
Nathan O'Halloran is a Jesuit Scholastic of the New Orleans Province. Read his full piece in context (here). He makes some valid points in not substituting the movie for the Gospel accounts. A place where he could have explored was the fact the movie was translated into Latin and Aramaic by the renowned (pictured with Mel Gibson) Jesuit, Fr. William Fulco. If you have watched the latest definitive version of the DVD their is an extensive and positive interview with Fr. Fulco about The Passion of the Christ.

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