In a few weeks, we are going to be treated to what A.O. Scott from the New York Times calls Mel Gibson's "Passion" as: "It is as it was"... whatever that means. He says he is supposedly quoting Pope John-Paul II's reaction to "Passion". This film is based on the passion of St. Matthew, an excerpt from the New Testament, in which Jesus suffers several times prior to his crucifixion, as in the Garden, the pillar, carrying the cross, etc.
There is a modern trend in films that wants this story retold in realistic terms.
We can look at the story of Jesus through the eyes of film makers in the past who made films like "King of Kings", "Ben-Hur", "The Robe", "The Greatest Story Ever Told", and others from the 1950's through the late 60's. The problem with these early interpretations is that they rubber stamp an image that had been carefully crafted by European Christians about Christ for many centuries.
Only recently have filmmakers broken out of this traditional mold and turned a critical eye on what Jesus looked like, how he spoke and what life was really like in Palestine 2000 years ago. Recent films like; Scorsese's "The Last Temptation of Christ", Pasolini's "The Gospel According to St. Matthew", Zeffirelli's "Jesus of Nazareth", Jewison's "Superstar", and Godard's "Hail Mary" have thrown a more discerning eye on this untouchable material.
Why so untouchable? Because of the storm of controversy stirred up by religious zealots who see their Jesus as having brown hair, blue eyes, practicing Christianity; when in reality he was a Rabbi who practiced Judaism. His mother was Jewish, his father was Jewish, his friends were Jewish, and they all spoke Hebrew! If a brown haired, blue-eyed "white" baby was born in a Jewish family, he would have been stoned to death! The man said over 2000 years ago to love your neighbor... and we've been at war ever since! Go figure!
Now, along comes another interpretation! Oi-vay! Sometimes I wonder if Hollywood will ever learn. Should Hollywood tamper with this "sacred cow"? It only incurs someone's wrath (just as my comments will anger someone out there). Are religious stories about Jesus a legitimate subject for the movies? Or should it be left alone?
I purposely left out any religious film which did not refer to Christ, l ike "Dogma" or "The Ten Commandments" because they deal with religion on a different level.
I know this is a tricky subject because it involves personal feelings about something that is intangible some people. However, I was hoping we would look at it from a cinephile's position, rather than one who is into idolatry.