Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The Passion

RFI had a segment on Gibson's film which is opening in France. The film was described as "fundamentalist," as "distorting" the New Testament, and as anti-Semitic. Moreover, Gibson was called an "extremist." Mid-way through the discussion, both individuals who were speaking admitted that they had not seen the film. Simply amazing.

"Fascist" is the word that Marin Karmitz, head of the movie theater chain MK2, used to describe the film and to explain why his theaters would refuse to show the film. France's communists in L’Humanité remind us that Emmanuel Levinas once stated that the Holocaust was a re-enactment of the Passion (does that mean that any teachings with respect to the Passion are necessarily anti-Semitic?).

Le Monde levels similar accusations against the film (hopefully someone there actually saw it). It claims that the anti-Semitism in the film is typical of traditional Catholics and evangelical Protestants and argues that the film indulges in the "worst fundamentalist tendencies of the modern age." I find it telling how this "fundamentalism"--despite the film's success in the US--hasn't triggered anti-Jewish riots or kamikaze attacks on cafes, subways or skyscrapers. The film--or, more specifically, the response that it has triggered in France--does, however, indicate a certain French intolerance towards any signs of faith that are not hung on a museum wall.

Meanwhile, France's newspaper with Catholic inclinations, La Croix, writes that the French Catholic church is not crazy about the film, worrying that the "extreme violence will hide the Passion's meaning and the larger message of Christ." Nonetheless, Gibson's "sincerity is not in question" and "the film will attract men and women who seek to know Jesus." However, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger is not a fan, describing the film as a reflection of "group sadism."

The lone voice in the wilderness is Le Figaro, which contains an article in defense of Gibson's film. The writers note: "If one intends to truly film the Passion and the crucifixation, we cannot simply refer in passing to Christ's suffering...Should we be angry if the result does not resemble a pre-Raphaelite tableau?"

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