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The International Writers Magazine
: Readers letters March 26th 2004

REALITY CHECK
James Campion

READERS RESPONSES
Letters to James Campion

Due to the overwhelming response to last month’s two part columns on "The Passion of the Christ" (a record for this space - and that’s saying something) we needed two more weeks to provide ample equal time. The following are responses to the film’s review.

James,
Thanks for the review...well written and oh-so informative. Probably very accurate as well (I ain't gonna pay into this one ... I'll get a pirate copy some time ... or, in fact, if there isn't any history in it, I'm not interested). Ah, yes, something I wanted to mention. Years ago, I read Phillip Roth's THE COUNTERLIFE -a very bad book with one good line:
(On the Holocaust) "Christians ask us when we are going to forget out six million martyrs; we want to know when they are going to forget their one."
This is a paraphrase, not a quote.
V.

Mr. Campion,
Your loathing for Catholic values, not withstanding, I pained to do it, but agreed totally on your assessment that if not for the phony trumped up controversy of "The Passion" - controversy? Jesus Christ dies on the cross and rises up. What haven’t we seen before a hundred times? Gibson is overrated as a filmmaker. This thing just stunk, and as a Catholic and a father, I would NEVER take any kid to see it. What? Are parents nuts?
Dennis G.

Hey Jim,
As much as we would love to delve into Christ's spirituality, there really isn't too much to go on. We know he was born, we know at about the age of 8 he was found by his parents in the synagogue talking to the elders but after that we hear of no teen-age Christ, we hear nothing of a "twenty-something" Christ. In the scripture's he goes from an 8-year old boy to a 33 year-old "savior". Any speculation beyond the New Testament is just that: speculation. We know how he felt from the writings of the gospel and we know of his deeds but if we were to get into "spirituality" it would have to be an exercise in creativity as there are no definitive writings of Jesus himself.
Many Christians hold onto the crucifixion and the resurrection because outside of that there is really not that much else to go on. Outside of a few miracles, a few teachings and the Sermon on the Mount, Christians don't have a whole lot more to go on.
Please understand that because of the limited knowledge of Christ, when you go too far in trying to understand or explain Jesus, you end with this or in a worst case scenario, The Last Temptation of Christ, an absolutely horrible, despicable film. Give Mel a break on this, he did what any other film maker has done, put his own interpretation on a historical event and showed it the way he saw it.
I just have one question, if this film slammed Jesus or showed Jesus getting a blowjob, would the critics be as pissed or would they consider the film "artful" or "introspective"? I think we know the answer to that one and it's a damned shame.
Bill Roberts Jc,

My favorite "reasoning fallout" from Gibson’s windfall production is by millions of people flocking to see it that somehow vindicates Christian dogma. So, I guess that means millions going out to see "Dude, Where’s My Car" or "Independence Day" bolsters the asinine drugged-out moron and the anti-alien lobby.
What’s next: The overwhelming popularity "My Big Fat Fiancée" proves what?
Quincy

Reality Check,
For me, "Jesus of Nazerath" with "Tommy's" dad is still number one in the Jesus movie department, lots of Zeffarelli moments of stunned faces and meaningful glances, with Max Von number two (In that one I remember Chris McCullum as Judas first putting a noose around his neck THEN diving into the fire pit. What the?) Mike York was also good as the Baptist and of course Chuck did a fine bit as well (You hear his scream get cut off as his HEAD DOES "Repent! Herod, its your only chance! "Re-" CHOP! Dafoe was miscast, the movie Superstar dude sucked (Ted Nealy?), especially in comparison to the vocals of Gillan, perhaps rock's GREATEST singer for pure screamability while staying in tune! As you said, the Godspell guy was gay, and the later Jesus movies on TV have all been crapcity, NOT craptacular by any means.
CB

Sir,
God bless Mel Gibson. He has taken the normal parade of Hollywood trash and blessed it with a new vision. I applaud his courage. And as an author of the subject matter, you should too. At least people are speaking about it. Debating it. This has to be better than the usual muck. I, for one, am proud to be a Christian today.
Adam Tychon

jc,
I really enjoy your work, and try and read it every week, but throwing your opening statement that "The Passion of The Christ" was "not a film about Jesus, but a film about Catholicism" struck me as a profundity in a rather obvious way, really. I mean, most films, like novels or poems or whatever creative outlet does involve subtext in some way or the other.
It’s like saying "Raging Bull" is not a film about boxing, it’s about failure or "American Beauty" is not a film about a dumb middle-aged guy falling for a teen queen, it is about unfulfilled dreams or whatever. The agenda is always in the hand of the artist. And, of course Gibson feels it his duty to impart his beliefs at this time not unlike Sidney Lumet’s fine film, "Network" being his manifesto or "JFK", which you mention in your piece, being Oliver Stone’s.
So I guess I would ask when is a film about something when it really is about something else? And my answer would be "All The Time!"
Salvador

James,
Take religion out of the equation and Gibson’s film is no less sensationalistic than "Scarface". Good call.
Amy B.

Sir,
Belief is belief. What’s not to get?
Tilly

The Passion of The Christ see what it's about here

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