Mixed Reactions to The Passion of The Christ

Mel Gibson’s new film “The Passion of The Christ? has been on release in America for over three weeks. It is released in the UK on 26th March and in Italy on 7th April. It now has continued to be received with mixed reviews from various critics. The film, released in America on 25th February, grossed more than $20m on its first day alone, and has maintained its No.1 spot at the US box office for a third week. The film has taken over $260m so far in the North American box office leaving it just short of the multi-Oscar winning The Return of The King’s takings at the same stage of its release. The Passion has been selling out cinemas not just on Fridays and Saturdays but during the day time and on Sundays too, and this has seen it become the fifth highest grossing R-Rated film ever.

Prior to its release many religious leaders and critics were condemning the film as promoting anti-Semitic feelings, and criticized Mel Gibson’s portrayal of the final hours of Jesus?life as stereotyping the Jews at the time of the crucifixion. However, a recent poll has actually indicated that the film may actually help against anti-Semitic feelings. The poll conducted by the ‘Institute for Jewish and Community Research?in San Francisco surveyed 1003 random people that had seen or heard of the film. The results show that 83% of people polled said the film would not change their feelings towards the Jewish Community at all, and only 2% said it would increase anti-Semitic feelings. Surprisingly 9% of those surveyed actually said the film decreased any anti-Jewish feelings they had.

The president of the Institute, Mr Tobin said so far the film is not producing any significant anti-Jewish feelings, “People have had to think and reflect on their beliefs. This film was absolutely healthy for religion in America.?

However, the director of the ‘Anti-Defamation League?in San Francisco thought the poll was conducted too early and not enough people were polled. He said that since the film came out they had received a couple of dozen hateful phone calls, and that some Jewish children had been called “Christ-killers?on school campuses.

The Vatican seems to be sitting on the fence about the film. In his Lent sermon Father Raniero Cantalanessa said the film should be criticized if it spread the belief that all Jews were responsible for Jesus?death. But if it only showed an influential group of Jews to blame it could not be criticized. However, Father Cantalanessa was sure to assert “the Jewish people, as such, are not responsible for the death of Christ.?

‘Newmark Films?who are the distributors of The Passion of The Christ were very pleased by the overall reaction from the American public. The president of Newmark Films, Bob Berney told USA Today “It’s gone beyond churches renting out cinemas themselves. We are across the board with ethnic groups and ages.?

Stephen Ortiz, Assistant Professor of Archaeology and Biblical Studies in New Orleans was quick to point out the difference between The Passion’s portrayal of Jesus and former ‘Hollywood?representations. He says “The Passion is a visual depiction of the Jesus in the New Testament. This Jesus is not acceptable these days. It is controversial as they do not want a suffering Jesus, they want a Hollywood Jesus. Mel Gibson is taking heat in the Hollywood community because he produced a movie about the ‘wrong Jesus? a Jesus who willingly chose to undergo suffering and to go to the cross.?

In Nashville, Tennessee Betty Neal a member of Inglewood Baptist Church had been persistently praying and trying to bring her friend William Andrews to the Lord for three years, but to no avail. However, after taking her friend to see the Passion he started coming to church with her. He has now made a public profession of faith and is planning to be baptized. Neal says “I admire Mel Gibson for making this movie, especially amid all the controversy. He knew what his life was going to be like once he made this but if just one soul is saved because this movie was made then it was all worth it.?

The Passion of the Christ is released in the UK on 26th March and in Italy on 7th April. The reaction is still to be seen, but it is bound to provoke as much thought and debate among people of all ages and religions as it has done in America so far.